Friday, February 28, 2014

The Music Business (Part 1)

This week, the place where I teach at hosted two guest lectures on different aspects of the music business. One lecturer, Jordan Tishler is studio owner in the Boston area and the other lecturer was Dr. Terry Chance, a Country and Western star from the 70's and 80's.

Students asked questions, mainly directed at how they could break into the music business themselves. There were to main themes that were very pronounced in both lectures:
1) Know the business inside and out
2) Be personable and unique.

I think this is absolutely the key to being successful in anything, especially music.

Dr. Chance explained that you have to be unique in order to be marketable in this day in age. Nobody wants to listen to the same music that has already been done. So the big question is how do you market yourself as unique? I think the bigger question is, how do you make yourself stand out?

Mr. Tishler explained that standing out really involves knowing your business and making sure you can make connections through networking. It's often the small connections that lead to bigger opportunities down the road.

In regards to knowing the business, I can't emphasize this enough. No matter what job you have or industry you work in, you MUST know:

  • How most people make money in the business
  • Who are the biggest players in the industry
  • Why are they the biggest players
  • How did they get there
  • Who are their competition
  • How does their products work
  • How do they distribute them to the masses
  • Why do customers keep buying their products?
When you begin to dive into these topics, then you find an overwhelming expansive knowledge base that can frustrate yet intrigue you. If you want to be an expert however, you must have a passion for the subject matter and want to contribute or help change the industry.

And not knowing everything is ok! Because the music industry is CONSTANTLY changing and evolving, its more of your job to know the history yet also keep up with the updates. We are always learning and none of us can know everything about our business. It's almost impossible, but knowing key concepts and important items can help other people see that you are unique and understand what's happening with the industry... Which makes you unique.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Twenty-Five Things Every Basement Recording Studio Needs

When I was a freshman in high school nothing excited me more than sneaking out during my lunch break and heading down to the local Guitar Center in Danvers, MA to play with all the new toys and recording equipment. I would walk into that room where they showcased the huge consoles, tons of monitors, racks of compressors and dream of sitting down in front of one, moving the faders and knobs to make a record. I had no idea what any of the stuff did, but I knew that this would be a way to combine my love of music and technology into a future career. After bartering with my mom with house chores and good grades, she took me down to that particular Guitar Center where I met Thomas Moore: manager of the store by day, a Beatles cover band member by night. He showed me the way to my first cassette 4 track: a Tascam Portastudio 414. 

After fumbling around for a good two months and realizing I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, I decided that I would have to get some education in what all these knobs and faders did. I bought a copy of Tape Op and I studied that magazine like it was God’s commandments given to me by Bob Clearmountain. One of the first articles I read explained some simple supplies needed for recording in your basement studio. I rode my bike to the Danville Village Market and bought duct tape, pink string (that’s all they had), electrical tape, four 9-volt batteries and a pad of paper. On the ride back, I found a huge branch that had fallen in the road with the wood exposed and no bark, and brought it back home. With a little bit of duct tape and string, a radio shack high impedance ¼ TS microphone and a dead branch mic stand, I had started my home recording studio.

Those early days recording my friends were magical, albeit frustrating. Mics sounded like tin cans, sometimes I would record over the wrong track, and the mic stand would break and have to be repaired or cut to accommodate a different instrument. But I progressed moving on from that Tascam 4 track to Pro-Tools free, to Cakewalk to Pro-Tools 001 and up.

Thinking about what this Tape Op article meant to me, I wondered if these same sets of principles and supplies could be applied to the current set of recording tools now available. How has recording changed or stayed the same since that article came out 12 years ago? What are the other random things you might need in a modern day project studio?

1. Leatherman: An all around multi-tool that you will eventually need. You never know when you might need to survive in your studio for days on end and build fires or fix a mic stand.

2. 9-Volt Batteries: Because every pedal out there runs on them and they will most likely die because the guitarist never changed them.

3. Guitar Strings: Have a few packs on hand incase the face melting solo melts a few strings as well.

4. Guitar Picks: Keep an assortment on hand: hard, medium, soft nylon picks.

5. Guitar cables: Guitarists. Enough said.

6. ¼” to 1/8” TRS Adapters: It’s more than likely you will need to swap headphones for ear buds, etc.

7. One set of Drum Sticks: Even though you don’t play, the drummer does and sticks break. 5As are pretty standard.

8. Two XLR Male to Male and Two Female to Female Turn-around: When you run that 100 foot mic cable backwards and is impossible to re-run before a session, these will come in handy to reverse the gender of the connectors to the correct type.

9. Duct Tape or Gaffe Tape: To tape down wires, secure those lose mic stands and fix mic clips. Gaffe tape is more expensive but will not leave a residue of adhesive behind it.

10. Masking Tape or Rumble Tape: To label your tracks if you have a mixer or to label microphone inputs into your I/O. Again, rumble tape is more expensive but doesn't leave a residue like masking tape might.

11. Sharpies: They are clear and bold to stand out when labeling. Multiple colors aid in organization.

12. Cinch Cord or Heavy String: To hang aux percussion, or hang a microphone in a tight spot. Also useful for hanging blankets and other sound treatments.

13. Heavy Blanket: to put over guitar cabs or inside kick drums to provide a little bit more isolation. To use for a picnic.

14. Two DI Boxes: To convert the hi-impedance guitar signal to mic signal, record Bass or to use for a possible re-amp situation.

15. Pad of Paper and Pencils: This is for documentation. Yes pencil and paper is still faster than typing and cheaper than a tablet.

16. Digital Camera: For taking pictures of all your mic placements.

17. Spindle of CDs or Bundle of USB Thumb Drives: To burn those rough mixes, 512 MB USB drives are really cheap and you can find them in bundles online.

18. Extra Hard Drives: You never know when one will crash. Preferable a giant 2 TB minimum hard drive with a back up of your computer OS and apps. In the event of a catastrophic failure you can simply replace the hard drive quickly.

19. Local Take Out Menus: Bands get hungry too.

20. Pop Filter: An easy way to get rid of plosives and to protect your microphones from moisture when recording vocals.

21. Egg Shaker: A fantastic addition to any track when called for.

22. Tissues or Paper Towels: These are handy not only for cleaning up, but when that snare just has too much ring in it these are handy to fold into squares and tape on the head to get rid of it. This technique also works great for toms.

23. Ambiance: Lava lamps provide extra light and also create a comfortable atmosphere in the studio. Other things like plants and art help keep the mood relaxed.

24. Extra headphones: Somebody always forgets or breaks them. Keep at least one extra set on hand.

25. Tool Box: A place to keep all this stuff in!

My first recording studio: Testa Projects and Sounds. Complete with Tascam Portastudio 414

Updated 4 years later with a Mac G3 and Pro Tools Digi 001.

Updated for the final time in 2008 with Pro-Tools and Digital Performer 4 while recording on a Yamaha 01V.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Timbre of Pics and Guitar Woods

Back in 1996, I saved a great insert from Guitar Magazine. In May and June respectively, they did a special called "Toy Box" which cataloged and described the differences in Picks using different types of materials and the tone they produce. They also did a review of different woods for guitars. Here are the original charts.
The original writer was "Lisa Sharken"

Sunday, February 16, 2014

We're back!

Well, to think that we started this all on the days of iWeb and Mobile Me. It's been a struggle to get here, but we finally made it to cloud based blogging. The idea of updating a blog from one computer was mind numbing, not to mention trying to move all of the data from the computer to The Cloud. I experimented with GoDaddy hosting, hosting and none met the needs of the blog.

The whole idea of the blog was to keep the content from years past so there could be an "audio archive". I sadly must depart from that idea since none of the archives were really savable and couldn't be transferred into a nice neat package from one domain to another. So, I saved the best post from years past and reposted them.

Here's to new beginnings!

Superbowl Halftime Show: Audience Perspective (From February 4 2013)

Time for my yearly comment on this year’s Super Bowl half time show! All I can say is.... thank god MTV brought back the glory of the pyrotechnics! (oh wait, MTV didn’t produce it this year?)

Anyways, so much better than... I am sorry.... The WHO.  At least it was relevant and in this generations’ attention span. 

Now: Musical Stuff

Sennheiser looks like they were all over the wireless again this year. And yes.. Beyonce was not lip syncing... most of the time. You could plainly tell... because she wasn’t singing half the time. Most of her singing was within an octave for the first half of the concert. She when she wasn’t “singing” she was mostly counting or yelling “yeah” to the crowd. 

From a critical listening stand point there was about a 300ms delay (which would be considered an echo) that was audible most of the time from the main vox mic. That’s your cue. If you can hear the room in a big stadium like that, then your mic is live. 

What was not live however.. was Destiny’s Child’s performance. Oh yes, their mics were on.. but very low.. Proof when they tried to do more crowd work, you could barely hear them. 

But I wanted to explore a little bit beyond the concert to the whole notion that people are criticizing musicians for not being able to sing live. Listen... Beyonce can sing, she is a phenomenal singer. But you are not asking your singers to just “SING” you are asking them to get up and do a vaudeville act, dance and do gymnastics all while trying to hold pitch. Now I am not saying that these musicians can’t do it, of course they can... but to do it for an entire concert? No way, they are perfectionists so if they can’t give their audience the show that they paid for, the would want help. 

(try this experiment, try singing “The Star Spangled Banner” next time you go up two flights of stairs. You will notice that your voice naturally wobbles with every step you take, not because you are out of breath, but because of pure mechanical motion)

Let us think beyond the lip synching for a second. Let us think about what brought us here? It’s the market. People are expecting much more than what can be provided by musicians on stage. People want to hear their favorite albums (or now singles) on stage, not an actual performance of the song. If they wanted a performance, they would appreciate the differences of the song between their live version and the album. This is why everybody wanted to see “The Grateful Dead” live, (well mostly or the music) because they never knew how their favorite song would blossom to a 22 minute jam session.  

So how did we get here? It’s the market and by that I mean all consumers. We all purchased N’Sync and went to their live shows where they just danced around to a backing track. The marketers and publicists took note and now here we are. Consumers don’t want to see a live show for the performer, they want an epic experience every time. That’s not music, that’s theater. But lip synching is not new, it’s been around as long as at least Milli Vanilli and probably before Michael Jackson. 

I am actually kind of happy that people are this up and arms over Beyonce and the national anthem. Maybe we will start to focus on musicianship again and not choreography. 

AES Convention 2011 (From October 23 2011)

A good wrap up to the convention. The expo floor wrapped up with all vendors pretty happy with the convention. The consensus was that people were more interested in buying and upgrading existing studio technologies.

Some personal highlights were Antelope and SSL. Antelope ‘s products which highly concerned about clocking and sync have the opportunity to push the industry to develop better D/A for monitoring at higher sample rates. 
SSL announced a native version of their plug in bundle “Duende”. This along with the AVID announce of ProTools 10 is sure to regain some market share. 

One ugly rumor I did hear on the floor however was that Apple was possibly thinking of end-of-lifeing their successful DAW “Logic”. I hope this rumor is not true, we need variety in the marketplace in order to keep prices down and innovation up. 

AES Convention 2011 (From October 22 2011)

Saturday was much more low key than Friday’s expo opening. Most visitors were still trying to mull the differences in the new Pro-Tools 10 and why AVID decided to quick release the new upgrade. 

I spent a good amount of time with Audio Precision checking out their audio analyzer, the APX525. This piece of equipment was really cool, it checked all different types of imput from AES, SPDIF and even HDMI. It could even determine if the metadata stream in the HDMI was broken and at which point in the test. 

Then besides getting ear molds done, it was finally off to some professional development in the workshop sections. We got to see game audio composition, lip sync issues and a Grammy Acadamy Sound Table featuring Chris Lord-Alge moderating a panel of platinum engineers and producers talking about their favorite songs and why they had the most impact personally to them. Panelists includedKen Ifill, Steve Lillywhite, Ann Mincieli, Phil Ramone and Al Schmitt. 

AES Convention 2011 (From October 21 2011)

This years Audio Engineering Society convention had the smells and flavors of previously happier events. A stark contrast than 2009’s AES convention when the audio industry took another major hit with the slump in the economy. However this year the vibe of the conference was much more positive and more importantly filled with potential buyers. 

Today I had the opportunity to visit with Sennheiser, Solid State Logic, Sound Devices, Auralex, Izotope, Gibson Guitar, Antelope, Fraunhofer and TC Electronics. Here are some highlights. 

Sennheiser had a sneak peak at their new KH810 sub with KH120 monitors. They sounded crisp for a near field monitor with good high end response. I also got a chance to check out their new K-Array KB1 that is a subwoofer cab about the size of a small guitar combo amp with a long tweeter array that sits on top. Small footprint, great sound. MSRP is a bit much though, $2199 but you get a kick ass PA instead of a combo amp. 

SSL had a really nice look at Nucleus, which was a HUI with two SSL preamps installed. The HUI interfaced well with Logic, Live and Pro-Tools. Speaking of Pro-Tools, the Duende plug in package is now available in native formats. 

Sound Devices had a nice feature upgrade to their 788T MultiTrack digital audio recorder called “Mix Assist”. This was an automixer feature that allowed the unit to automix up to 8 channels of dialog. 

Auralex is unveiling a new panel tomorrow in Saturday Oct 22nd at 3:30 pm in Rm 1E06. 
We also had a great talk about their green initiative. 

Izotope debued Ozone 5 today. EQ looks slick as well as the impressive spectrum analysis. 

Gibson Guitar featured the new Firebire X guitar with a ton of onboard FX and autotuning. The Autotuning feature was really neat where they actually installed robotic machine heads. 

Antelope audio had a really high sampling rate with solid clocking unit. One was the Zodiac which has an endorsement from Jim Anderson and their new Eclipse. I am going to feature two of their units in an upcoming post. 

Fraunhofer IIC was demonstrating an impressive low bit rate MPEG surround product that had surprisingly low loss due to their compression. They also exhibited a Personal Broadcast  Dialog enhancement technology that allowed consumers to adjust the dialog on their own. A fantastic addition to the market place of consumer audio. I will be doing a longer post on this as well. 

Finally I stopped by TC electronics where they debued their native LM6 plug in. 

Good vibes, good energy, good products all the way around. See you tomorrow. 

CD Review, Dream Theater. A Dramatic Turn of Events (From September 23 2011)

With the departure of Mike Portnoy and a dramatic search for a drummer, Mike Mangini has emerged as not only a formidable replacement but also a driving force in a complete change of sound and focus of the band. 
As many sites will review the musical qualities of the album, let us look at the mix and production. 

This album was again recorded by Paul Northfield. Mr. Northfield has a pretty impressive rock, metal and progressive discography working with the likes of Rush, Alice Cooper, Queensryche and Ozzy Osbourne. Engineering and mixing Dream Theater’s last two albums; for ADTOE he was only recording engineer. This album was mixed by Andy Wallace 

Producer: John Petrucci
Recorded at Cove City Sound Studios, Glen Cove, NY
Assistant Engineer: Joe Maniscalco

Vocals recorded at Mixland, Midhurst, Canada
Recorded by Richard Chychi

Album Mixed by Andy Wallace
Mixed at Soundtrack Studios, NYC
ProTools engineer, Paul Suarez

Mastered by Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound, NYC

Spatial Texture/Timbre in Environments

The first thing we need to explore is spatial texture within the album. Jordan Rudess’ use of synth pad patches and samples create three distinct environments on three different tracks, Track 1: On the Backs of Angels, Track 3: Lost Not Forgotten and Track 6: Outcry set the tone of the album. 

On track 1, the use of Rudess’s iOS app Morphwiz is clearly distinguishable with scalar glissandos in the opening 30 seconds of the piece. Using a patch designed around sine waves provides smooth texture opposing the percussive/alien backdrop. Morphwiz also provides a nice counterpoint to the percussive guitar that enters later in the intro. 

In track 3, the texture is a bit more granular. The start of the song starts with a wind and horse sample which then is disrupted by piano playing in minor, to which then the full band comes in with guitars in parallel counterpoint. The granularity comes with the higher frequency samples picked for the intro and also the tone and texture chosen for the guitars primarily. They have a bit more high-mid presence thus accentuating lower harmonics, which fight with each other during parallel scale runs. 

Track 6 has the most interesting synthesized environment where there is a low pad defining the rear and front of the mix sound stage and the verbed-out shaker panning hard left and right in rhythm defines the left and right boundaries. This then fits in nicely with the percussive synth patch, samples and glockenspiel patch. 

Sound Stage and Stereo Location

Guitars vs Keys:

The guitars pretty much sit mid width of the of the stereo spectrum and trade off center position when leading. The guitars also do a great job of defining the front portion of the sound stage consistently. 

The synthesizers do the most defining of the sound stage boundaries but are a bit more difficult to gauge left to right accurately since most of the boundary definition patches are pads with lots of movement. These do however give an interesting perspective the to the rear of the stage. Since there is lots of movement and space in the synths, it gives a very expansive rear of stage image which is often lost or imposingly distant. This creates a great feeling of tension which helps push some of the emotions and feeling of the content of the music. 


Overall we can see that the drums are reinforcing the definition of the boundaries of the sound stage but only on massive drum fills. Most of the album was mixed in audience perspective. The drums do sit well in the mix however odd and interesting things happen with the hi-hat when choral patches are played by Rudess. Could it be some errant frequency masking? 

Overall Mix and Timbre Observations

The guitars are the usual Petrucci shredding; nothing new except now he pays much more attention to tone overall and his timbral counterpoint with Rudess’s keys and synths. 

What is MUCH more noticeable is the overall use of chorus and string patches giving the overall theme of the album a more cinematic feel rather than a gothic feel than their previous album “Black Clouds, Silver Linings” 

Comparing mixes to the previous 2 albums (Systematic Chaos and Black Clouds Silver Linings) is how further back the drums sit in the mix. The drums sit in a distance closer to “far” than “near” when referring to the Moylan critical listening scale. 

Is iTunes really that bad? (From February 19 2009)

As I was driving over the Mohawk Trail to North Adams, Mass to spend a weekend with my girlfriend looking at contemporary art at MASS MoCA, we were having a brief discussion about wedding music. As usual my thoughts normally tend to de-rail and take forks in the road that would make Robert Frost jealous. I started to think about how all the music we were picking out had been purchased on iTunes, which lead me to this question: is iTunes really as bad as music industry pundits say it is?

I think, in pop music, iTunes has created a consumer market where mediocrity and “filler” is no longer tolerated. We don’t have to buy an entire album to listen to our favorite songs; now you can just download the single off of i-tunes, Rhapsody, etc. Consumers are no longer buying albums like they were. Why pay for an album with one or two good songs when you can just buy them individually?

It seems to me that record companies are still operating under the model of, “we must release 10-12 songs on this album or the market will not spend the money on it and sales will go down.” I say this: the idea of the album might be running all the red lights on the way to the graveyard. As a record company, why spend all the money doing 10-12 songs when you already identified the singles and plan to release those anyway? 

It’s a tough concept to think about, not releasing an album but just releasing downloadable singles. Not only will it change the structure of the recording industry’s sales figures and business model, but also it would most likely put record stores out of business permanently. Mastering houses and recording studios will have to change their business model because they will no longer be working with 10-12 songs but maybe just 1-3 at a time. Distribution would be crushed because there would not be anything to distribute; everything will be downloaded at hi-res or at least CD quality. 

If anything this should force a better quality of music released. Artists won’t write the “filler” music on the albums and maybe concentrate on making better quality releases. If a record company said that you have three months to record an album, the artist might say that they have 3 probable hits and they will work up the rest of the album in the studio. 

HOW PRODUCTIVE IS THAT?!? Not only do you waste money in studio time, but you waste the engineer’s time, the producers time and the studio’s time practicing and writing your new album in a very expensive practice space. 

What if the record company said, “you have 3 months to release your music.” Maybe a song takes 1½ months to finish the instrumentation on. Maybe it takes another month to finish the mix. Maybe releasing new music becomes special again. Maybe, just maybe, the music is really good and thoughtful. Maybe the producers and engineers actually contribute to meaningful work again and become relevant for their musical and technical knowledge instead of being able to market and sing along with their talent (Jay Z, Timberland, etc). Maybe this is already happening… ( )

It’s a difficult concept to think about putting all of those operations out of business but as of this moment, we are in a deep recession, if not a depression. It’s happening already, record stores are folding. The market is changing. It only makes sense that the music industry also feels, and must adapt to, the effects of a bad economy.

No More Cable (From February 9 2009)

For the past week I have been living an alternate lifestyle.  I decided to ditch our Cable TV service. We have been toying with the idea for a bit now however when this month’s bill came in, we were charged $145.97 for basic HD cable and basic cable internet service. We were paying $99 for our tv service and $39.99 for the internet service of 12 Mbps. 

Our lifestyle doesn’t particularly lead to much TV watching. We enjoy watching our DVR’d shows such as The Office, House, Nip Tuck, Survivor  and her favorite America’s Next Top Model however we recently discovered X-Box 360 can stream Netflix directly to the console. Going through the Netflix library, all of our shows were available for direct download to the X-Box 360 so we decided to purchase the lowest possible monthly Netflix subscription which allows for 1 DVD at a time and 6 instant downloads at a time. 

With that we were on our way to dumping our Cable TV plan. Since we rarely watched live TV, why bother paying for it? We can rent the DVDs or buy them if we wish or even better, watch TV online. We recently discovered the joy of Hulu, Joost and Veoh, not to mention ABC, CBS and NBC releasing their content on the websites as well. This sealed the deal for me. So I called Comcast and told them our intentions; remove our cable TV service and increase our internet bandwidth to 40Mbps. First off we had to go through a “service manager” who wanted to know why we would want to cut out fundamental service. When I explained to him that we would be increasing our internet bill but removing our TV package he still had a hard time figuring out the math. In the end we ended up saving $50 a month by increasing our internet and dumping our cable TV yet no decrease in content consumption. 

Technically what we did. 

So obviously now that we have Netflix on the Xbox 360, movie quality depends on quickness of download rate. Because of this we increased our internet bandwith to 40Mbps download and 15Mbps upload. We had to purchase a Motorolla Surfboard  to handle the larger bandwidth but we kept our Linksys wireless router . I did some testing on internet speed using (, a website that tests up and download speeds to servers all over the world. Here is what I found. 

With the wireless connection we get a 21Mb download max. 
Wired directly into the router or the modem we get a 39 - 41Mbps download max. 

This will allow for Blue-Ray downloads when they become available on Netflix downloads. 

Game play on the Wii and X-Box 360 is noticeably faster. 

So with the speed tests complete, we can observe that the obvious slowest component in the chain in the wireless part of the router. Makes sense because wireless connections are notorious for slow RF data transmission due to their low power output. 

So there you have it, we officially live an alternate lifestyle. We don’t have cable TV, and I feel more connected than ever. It’s pretty cool. 

Working in the Field (From December 29 2008)

The past couple of days my favorite TV channels (discovery HD, Science Channel HD, NatGEO HD) have been showing a plethora of survival shows, particularly Man Vs Wild with Bear Grylls and Survivor Man  with Les Stroud . Forever looking for topics to write about for this site, it got me thinking, what bare essential items do I need when I go into the field to work or into a studio to work? What resources can I use to improvise and engineer solutions?

Bare essentials… Must have these on you at al times!

·      Multi-Tool: Especially one with wide opening pliers that taper to a nice needle nose.
·      Mini-Flashlight: You want it separate from your multi-tool in case you need to use both at the same time. Get an LED light, as it will last much longer and conserve energy.

Essentials if you are able to carry these:

·      Backpack or Messenger Bag: Keep relatively empty because you never know what you will pick up along the way.
·       Gaff Tape: Not only will you use this for fastening wires to the floor, but there are a multitude of other uses for it.Strips are ok, rolls are better.
·       Sach (however much you can carry): This thin rope will not only help you lash things together, but again can help you solve problems creatively.

Makes your job a lot easier:

·      Butane Solder Iron: Portable and doesn't need an outlet
o      Solder: A thin solder will be useful for almost everything
o      Soldering wick: Less bulkier than a Solder Sucker
o      Wire Stripper: More precise than your multi-tool
·      Multi-Meter: Good for checking continuity of a connector or checking for voltage on pin 2 of an XLR. Pretty much a great field-troubleshooting tool.
·      Q-Box: One of the best cable testers on the market. Durable and also has a tone generator on it, which makes it very helpful for identifying channels through a snake or patch panel.
·      Extra Connectors: This is the most changing piece of gear in my bag. I have a Ziplock baggy filled with extra connectors. Depending what type of gig I am it, I add or subtract common connectors for un-common connectors in case I need to change something on the fly.

I guess it's cliché but surviving is all about being prepared and being adaptable. Once you can think outside the box and start to improvise solutions with resources around you, your troubleshooting skills will not only improve but your productivity will skyrocket. 

Practical Gifts for Musicians (From December 2008)

Practical gifts for musicians

Buying gifts in general is so difficult, what do you buy for a musician????? I compiled a small list to hopefully get you started. 

Gift Card to Local Record Store – 
Because people need to experience going into a record 
store again. It’s not about the inconvenience; it’s about the experience. 
Guitar, Bass, Violin, Cello etc Strings-
Brand and weight are important here. Snoop around to get the strings gauge info. ( )
Woodwind Reeds - Again brand and weight are very important here. ( )
Good Instrument Cables - If you buy a well-made instrument cable, it could last years, not just months on the road. The price might be higher but you will save money in the long run. ( )
Year Supply of mechanical Pencils - 
Because pencil sharpeners are hard to find. ( )
On Stage instrument holder - Instead of laying their instrument on the ground, they can rest it properly. ( )
Two sets of rechargeable 9V batteries - 
Guitar Pedals and almost every other portable music device takes 9V batteries. Get some good re-chargeable so that it saves the environment and saves money in the long run. ( )
Custom Mold Ear Plugs - These earplugs will not only filter out the harmful volume, but it doesn’t muffle the sound. ( )
Custom Mold In Ear Monitors – 
Like earphones, but with professional connections to allow for easier use in studios and live set ups. ( )
Mic Stand Beverage holder - Plastic bottles with cap remember! ( )
Drum stick holder - Can never have enough drumsticks ( )
Noise Canceling Headphones – 
Lessons from one of their idols – 
Not as expensive as you think. A lot of professionals are now doing lessons online in the form of video pod casting. Visit the professional website to see if they offer lessons or visit here for online lessons from Berklee 
Method book from one of their idols – 
Again visit their website. Most of them have some sort of book or methodology to how they made it big. ( )

Going Green in Audio (From Dec 22nd 2008)

By nature, audio and video are not very "green." It is power consumption to quality ratio. Typically, the more electricity we add to the signal the better it looks and sounds. So how do we as audio engineers, producers and musicians do our part to conserve electricity and do our part to contribute to the green movement?

1)   Outside the recording studio 
Before we go deep into power consumption inside the studio, lets look outside the studio to concert venues. 

KT Tunstle, System of a Down and Dave Matthews Band were recently talked about at ( ) for their contributions to the green movement. These artists have partnered up with a organization called Reverb Rock which organizes and manages eco friendly concerts. For example, they provide bio-diesel for vehicles and generators, waste reduction and biodegradable catering. (

If you can't afford bio-diesel generators or hiring to plan your event, you can do small things like setting up recycling bins for the venue, print programs on recycled paper and make your merchandise out of recycled products. It not only helps the Earth but is a good marketing point for you're fans.

Onstage there isn't much you can do; you need power to run the amps, guitars, microphones etc. However, you could include an acoustic set in your concert.  Running the acoustic instruments thought the PA system would take significantly less power than turning the amps on and micing the amps. Explain to your audience that you are trying to contribute to greener concerts and by shutting the amps off for a bit it will conserve electricity. Shutting some lights off on stage as well and asking the audience to hold their cell phones up for light will not only contribute to an intimate vibe but also allow the audience to participate in the concert instead of just experiencing it.

2)    Inside the recording studio

So again, there isn't much we can do about signal quality vs. power consumption. So lets look outside the signal path again. Look at your workflow. Do you use session notes? (If so, god bless you.) Well you don't have to get rid of your paper work just yet. Having your notes on a computer in a word document is not only more “recallable” but customizable and allows you to really detail your recalls. You can download faceplates off of ( ) and pencil in through Photoshop or paint your settings. If you just can't get rid of the tactile feeling of paper and pencil then do this, when you are finished with your project, scan the notes into your computer and recycle the paper notes. You can always re-print them but in the end, it saves the clutter in the archiving process.

Switch to LED lighting for your studio. Not only will you save money in light bulbs per year, but also your electric bill will go down a good amount. Did I mention that LED lights are very low noise as well? ( (

Get away from paper plates, cups and plastic forks. Buy some real dishes and cutlery and take the time to wash the dishes. It will offer a nice break during the session to clear your ears. You will save money on restocking the mic closet with party supplies.

Give the band a re-writable CD or flash drive for their rough mixes that they can bring in everyday. You not only save on blank CD media but you can also customize your USB flash drive with your studio or production company's logo. (

For bands, carpool to gigs. It might be uncomfortable and cramped but make signs or customize magnets for the outside of your car promoting the fact that you are on your way to a gig and you are carpooling for the good of humanity. Don't forget to include where you are playing and your website address. (

Look into rechargeable batteries for your fx peddles. Not only will you save money in the long run by purchasing fewer batteries, but also you are only an electrical outlet away from recharging them and getting fresh batteries. ( )

Doing small things can quickly add up. Not only is it a good marketing for your band or production company but also it contributes to a healthy environment.