Monday, March 25, 2019


I did gig about 5 years ago where the CEO of a big company asked what motivated his employees to work hard? He answered for them "Money! We all like Money! If we didn't like money, we wouldn't be here..."

This comment really stuck with me to this day. It might have been a throwaway line" to this big CEO, however, it resonated with myself because it has never been a motivation to my work in all honesty. I was really lucky to know what I wanted to do for my career at an early age. I always played piano and in high school my teacher Mr. Hamill took us on a field trip to Berklee college of Music. Here I found out what Music Engineering was and I immediately fell in love. I was a science geek in grade school and loved music as well. My decision was set firm, I wanted to be an audio engineer so I could use technology and play with music at the same time.

Throughout my high school career, I directed every decision I made to get into music college and get into a music engineering program. When I finally did, my college career was dedicated to getting a job in the industry so I could sit behind a console, play with buttons and have the ultimate control over electrons and sound pressure waves.

Money was never my motivation, money always seemed to be there, it might never have been enough, I might have been "poor" in some people's eyes but I never was homeless and I never went hungry. I always made my car payments and I had some extra to take my girlfriends to a nice dinner. I had a 401K, a stable income, but it was not my "motivation" for working. I would have done the work for free, because that's what I always wanted to do, I could never dream about doing anything different.

I wasn't a dummy however. The first thing I did when I got out of college is hired an accountant to do my taxes because I was self employed and freelancing. I was lucky to have a great mentor who taught me about tracking expenses and not letting people walk all over you. "Get paid what you are worth, and don't take anything less than market value because undercutting the rest of us will get you on the 'I don't want to work with this guy' list real quickly." he said. So what did I do?

I worked for free...
To a point...

When I needed more experience, I worked for free. When I felt comfortable, I used "standard rate". This showed my clients that I was serious about the work, and not just the Money... because I was serious about my art. But, I found that my clients not only respected this but were more apt to pay standard rate despite my little experience at the time because they saw the time investment I put in.

So, after hearing this speech by Mr. CEO, I rechecked my money situation. I'm still ok. :) The money is there, not much of it, but it's there and I am comfortable with my life and my career. So, Mr. CEO... Money doesn't motivate me, but it's a nice byproduct of enjoying what I would be doing normally.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Working with Virtual Guitars

Recently I have been experimenting with a lot of virtual plug-ins for guitar. Let's look at why the guitar is such a unique instrument and why it sounds so good through an amplifier.

The biggest interaction we see with the electric guitar and amplifier system is the feedback loop that is inherent. The sound produced by the metal strings is picked up by the pickups, then fed down the guitar cable into the amplifier, which then produces a much higher SPL into the room. This sound then has the potential to hit the guitar strings again and sympathetically vibrate them causing the sound to be picked up again by the pickups. This is very apparent in the traditional metal guitarist holding his or her guitar up to an amplifier to get the system to feedback. Even when far away, the slight feedback loops that occur at higher frequency levels contribute to the overall sound of the guitar, thus something that is lacking with an electric guitar plugged directly into a computer or tablet and using a virtual instrument to produce the amplifier tones.

When recording, the interaction of the guitar and the amplifier as well as the floor producing some interesting reflections and feedback options. Particularly, as Alex Case stated in an AES journal entry, the interaction with the floor and vs the direct sound from the amp produces a comb filtering effect which can either aid or hamper the recording process.

So, we can use this interaction to be part of the tone, or we can try to reduce the interaction by adding carpeting, raising the amp or reducing the distance of the mic from the amplifier. We can also play with the distance to see if the overall tone might be improved due to the enhanced comb filtering.

Least Significant Bit
The other issue that we have with virtual amplifiers is the problem of the quantization effect of the least significant bit. Think about it this way, you have a light dimmer, as you turn the dimmer up, more light comes into the room. This is analog. in digital, you have to flip the light switch many times a second to get the light to continuously be in the room. In a digital recording system, we have to worry about what happens at the 0 to 1 Bit portion of the bit depth plot. When the audio signal dips below the 2 and 1 bits because it is reducing in volume, the computer remembers acts as 1's and 0's, electricity on or off. At 1 bit, it still thinks this audio is "on", but below the 1 bit, in analog, there is many decimals for the audio to hang out at before it goes to nothing. In digital land, it is an electrical limbo, and the computer is not sure what to do with it. We get a quantization error. To overcome this, we put a virtual noise floor called Dither into the 0-1 bit depth, so technically the computer is always quantizing and sampling, it never stops and shuts off the light switch.

But in recording the guitar, the natural interaction of the amplifier which might make those last notes ring out a lot more; would be cut off by this quantization error and reduce the signal below the dither protocol, thus we might have reverb tails end quicker and less natural.

What can you do?
How do we make those virtual guitars sound more natural? There are a couple of steps we can do.

1) Add a small amount of delay with significant feedback to the guitar in order to extend those big long drawn out notes. This will help the virtual plugin handle the LSB (Least significant bit) and extend your distortion or FX times to a more natural sound

2) Add reverb pre-virtual plugin. This doesn't really apply to fast runs, but for those long drawn out notes and chords, it sure will. Automate the reverb in so it only pops in during the parts where you are struggling with keeping the guitar sustained.

In the end, we use virtual instruments for a number of reasons; we live in apartments and can't make loud noises, we want to change the tone of a sound, we don't know how to play the guitar so we use an instrument we can play and try to make it sound like a guitar. However, nothing can replace a well-played guitar, but if we think about the specifics of what makes it such an awesome instrument, then we can sure try to get close.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Welcome Back!

Wow, I can not believe it has been so long since I posted on here.

Let me first talk about what I have been up to.
Over the past 3 or so years, I have been focusing on writing my dissertation at U Mass Lowell. This process has been extremely time-consuming. Not only has it entailed long nights, but very early mornings and many hours in safe writing spaces, ie: Starbucks, libraries and other distraction-free zones. Now, as I am starting to transition out of that process into the real world again, I find myself wanting to explore writing and education with renewed vigor.
I have also accepted a tenure track position at Salem State University as the Coordinator of Music Technology. This has also been time-consuming but very rewarding as I am working with some amazing students and some amazing colleagues.

New Direction
As I have been thinking a lot about how to get the message of music technology out to a greater audience, I found myself exploring Twitter, Instagram and ultimately, coming back to this blog. When I started this in 2007, I had an idea of this blog being a reposting hotspot for industry news. Now, as I see it 12 years later, this blog should be about a personal journey of growth and education. I am TheAudioPod and it is me, and all of you. We learn things, we grow and we evolve as time goes on.
This is where I want to take this blog. I want to use this platform for inspiration and to help you all create music and art in a way that is unique and appropriate for your message.

Well as you can see, the updates make this blog a bit more hip (well maybe not). New Logo, new color scheme and a more mature voice (hopefully). I am excited to take this journey with you into creativity and look forward to interacting with you on a deeper experimental level.

In the meantime, visit myYouTube and check out some of the things I have been doing over the past 2-4 years. Hopefully, you can gain some insight and be inspired to create!

See you soon