July 2017

As my birthday was approaching, thoughts about how I would like to celebrate the day settled on taking pictures of our dogs and recording “I Can See Clearly” My thinking was clear, you can never have enough good pictures of your dogs, and it was time to record this song:Sound Cloud, Tom Yeiser, I Can See Clearly Now.

About the song

Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” is and has been a favorite song. It helped introduce Reggae to the U.S. in 1972 and is one of those iconic vocals that is hard to forget. The chord changes in the bridge were pretty cool and the use of accordion and hand percussion introduced my ears to world music.

Rambling production notes

I wanted to take inventory of where my music skills are today. I spent some time learning the bass part and drum part the way I used to learn songs when I was playing in bands in the 70’s and 80’s. I think I’ve continued getting better at figuring things out, so that is something to be thankful for. I love how this bass line locked with the kick drum. It is hard for a song to groove without the groove.

It is probably a bad idea to pick a song to cover with a vocal that is as stylized and perfect as this one is. I am not a great singer, although I am happy to report that auto-tunish software played no part in this recording and digital intervention in general was kept to a minimum. It is a pretty old fashioned recording in that respect. The key of E is not great for me either and as the years stack up the top end of my voice is disappearing. Anyway, despite it all I like the vocal, it is where I’m at.

Greg Mongolds’ Mossman guitar is heard on this track. I hadn’t realized until a moment ago when I checked the tag in the sound hole that it was built in 1972. I guess I can feel like there has been some synchronicity at work here. I think the guitar and the solo sit in the track pretty well. Pop song scholars will note that I added the solo and repeated the bridge. It’s a tuff song and I think it can take it.

I’m not sure if it is a quirk or a foible, but I’m not fond of pop song fade outs. I worked out a clean end and could see clearly how that messed up the song. So as I’m fading out, it probably is OK to let this track fade out too.

The synthesizer horn part in the bridge was the thing that was shocking to my ears back in 72. It reminds me of the first synthesizer I ever really heard and played which was an Arp Odyssey that Conrad and Sons Music loaned to New Albany High School in 1975 for our production of “Jesus Christ Superstar”. We were the second High School in the U.S. to put the show on, and part of the production costs were paid for with money from the National Endowment for the Arts. My sincere thanks to the generation of parents that paid taxes and didn’t mind enriching the lives of kids at my High School, and my thanks to a music department that could put on something that was kind of controversial at the time. Well done.

I’ll will eventually get back on the topic, but I played bass in Superstar, and even though there were lots of pictures of the show in my Senior Year Book, not one photo of the band was included.

Returning to “I Can See Clearly Now” the synthesizer part now seems a bit too prominent. While it was way out at the time it is a bit dated and the incredible vocals are kind of too far back in my opinion.

Bringing this to a close

I hope Beth and I will get around to doing another photo shoot of our dogs because I know I will treasure those as long as I live. What I learned spending time with this song, the process of recording, and producing something I like to hear was a good way to mark a birthday.

Finally I saw some press about Johnny Nash last year, he was alive (I hope he still is) and doing some studio work. This song was kind of a departure from his earlier work, which I don’t know very well, if at all. But this song was interesting to me. Let’s see Nixon won re-election in 72, Vietnam and Watergate were dominating the news, I spent the summer in Bloomington.

I Can See Clearly Now

As my birthday was approaching recently, thoughts about how I would like to celebrate the day settled on taking pictures of our dogs and recording “I Can See Clearly”  My thinking was clear, you can never have enough good pictures of your dogs, and it was time to record this song.

You can hear/download the track on my SoundCloud account “Tom Yeiser”. Here is a link: Sound Cloud, Tom Yeiser, I Can See Clearly Now.

About the song

Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” is and has been a favorite song. It helped introduce Reggae to the U.S. in 1972 and is one of those iconic vocals that is hard to forget. The chord changes in the bridge were pretty cool and the use of accordion and hand percussion (bongos I’m guessing) introduced my ears to world music after a steady diet of two guitars a bass and drums.

Rambling production notes

With the number of years piling up I wanted to take inventory of where my skills are today. Even though I’ve played the song for years I spent the time to learn the bass part and drum part the way I used to learn songs when I was playing in cover bands in the 70’s and 80’s. I’m probably quite a bit better now than I was back then, so that is something to be thankful for. I love how this bass line locked with the kick drum. It is hard for a song to groove without the groove.

I realize that picking a song to cover that Johnny Nash sang is probably a bad idea. I am happy to report that auto-tunish pitch correction type of software played no part in this recording and digital intervention was kept to a minimum. It is a pretty old fashioned recording in many respects. All in all I like the vocal, despite age taking it’s toll it’s real and it’s where I’m at.

I played my friend Greg Mongolds’ Mossman guitar which was built in 1972.  I hadn’t realized until a moment ago that the guitar was built the year this song was on the radio. I guess I can feel like there has been some synchronicity at work here. I think the guitar and the solo sit in the track pretty well, even though the Mossman’s voice would have have liked a new set of strings. Pop song scholars will note that I added the solo and repeated the bridge.

I’m not sure if it is a quirk or a foible, but I’m not fond of pop song fade outs like Johnny Nash’s version has so I worked out a clean end. It didn’t take long to see clearly how that messed up the song.  So I let this track fade out too.

The synthesizer horn part in the bridge was the thing that was shocking to my ears back in 72. It reminds me of the first synthesizer I got to play with. It was an Arp Odyssey that Conrad and Sons Music loaned to New Albany High School in 1975 for our production of “Jesus Christ Superstar”. I played bass guitar in the production. We were the second High School in the U.S. put the show on, and I’m pretty sure the high school received some grant money from the National Endowment for the Arts. My sincere thanks to that generation of parents who paid taxes and enriched the lives of kids at my High School. Also my thanks to a music department that could put on something that was kind of a reach. Incorporating a rock and roll ensemble into the pit band and doing the Andrew Loyd Weber play about Jesus were both kind of controversial at the time. Well done.

I’ll will eventually get back on the topic, but I was amazed when my High School Year book came out and even though there were lots of pictures of the show, there was not one photo of the band included. The B3, the Arp, the Steinway, the Bassman amp, the telecatser. the showman amp, the strings and horns, and a dozen or highschool musicians who really stepped up were left out.

Returning to “I Can See Clearly Now” the synthesizer part now seems a bit too prominent. While it was far out at the time it sounds a bit dated and the incredible vocals are kind of too far back in the mix in my opinion.

Bringing this to a close

I hope Beth and I will get around to doing another photo shoot of our dogs, because I know I will treasure those as long as I live. What I learned spending time with this song, the process of recording, and producing something I like to hear was a good way to mark a birthday.

Finally I saw some press about Johnny Nash last year, he was alive (I hope he still is) and doing some studio work. This song was kind of a departure from his earlier work, which I don’t know very well, if at all. But this song was interesting to me. Let’s see Nixon won re-election in 72, Vietnam and Watergate were dominating the news, I spent the summer in Bloomington.

Personal Headphone Mixes

Starting in April of 2017 Sweet Owen Sound has started using personal headphone mixers controlled by the musician in the studio.  My previous system has great sound quality but had to be mixed from the control room.  The new personal mixing system greatly speeds up getting the headphones right and allows much finer control.

In my consulting work I’ve recommended and installed headphone systems in churches that have a band on stage. They really solve a problem for modest acoustic spaces with drums, electric guitars and vocalist who want to hear themselves. However for my studio the high cost and unremarkable sound quality kept me from investing.

Recently the Behriger Powerplay P16-I and P16-M components came to my attention. They have a great feature set and are easy to use. The mains section has a 3 band EQ (with a parametric mid-range), a limiter,  and master volume. The channel selector has an illuminated button for each of the 16 channels, stereo pan and volume. You can solo and mute channels. The best feature of all is that they sound great.

Book some time and see how well it works!

 

Rationalizing priorities in choosing a room to record in

Let’s assume that you are a mature musician who is fully in command of your musical skills. You have the ability and depth to express music, and you are ready to make a recording. What is the single most important recording decision you can make? Is it the type of recording equipment, the engineer you choose, the brand name of the microphones, preamplfiers, digital converters, the phase of the moon or something else that will play the largest role in determining how good your recording will sound?

Since we live in a consumer world music stores, on line retailers and the manufacturers of recording equipment will suggest that purchasing the newest computer, recorder, microphone, software, or desktop device will allow you to create an amazing sounding recording in the privacy of your own home without knowing what you are doing. So like sheep we go and buy equipment.

The first ‘recording’ mic I bought I brought home, set it up in my beautiful front room of a 1927 craftsman style home and made an incredible recording of my foot tapping the floor, cars driving by and the refrigerator turning on and off. It was a great experience which I learned a lot from. After I turned off the refrigerator and placed put a rug under my feet I made an even better recording of cars driving by. A slightly less obvious problem was that my voice and guitar didn’t sound right no matter where the microphone was placed or how much post processing I could apply.

Way back in the 70’s when I attended IU School of Music I took a graduate level course on Acoustics that John Nagaoski taught. The subject of the class was Sabines’ formula RT60, which explains how interior architecture affects the way sound sounds in a room. As I started researching what it took to build a great recording studio I found books by F. Alton Everest including the ‘Master Handbook of Acoustics’, and several other relevant titles. It turns out that the basic design tool was Sabine’s RT60 formula, and understanding the relationship of room dimensions, materials, and the use of passive architectural devices to tune a room was what made a great room to record in. Rooms turn out to be just like the body of instruments. Take the strings off of one guitar and put them on another guitar and they will sound different. Take an instrument into two different rooms and it will sound different in each room.

So I think the single most important choice you have to make regarding how good a recording will sound is what room are you recording in. To pick a room start with a few simple questions. Does the room keep outside sounds out? Does the mechanical systems of the building create noise inside? Most importantly does the room alter the way music sounds in it? With these questions in mind you will find that it is hard to retrofit acoustic improvements into inadequate structures, and that the sexy equipment that manufactures advertise to ‘home recording artist’ simply cannot alter the fact that your room does not sound good.

For audio recording purposes residential structures simply fail. They are too light to keep outside sound out, the mechanical systems are too noisy, and the relationship between internal dimensions and the acoustic properties of the materials used guarantee failure. Churches and Concert Halls also generally fail. Building code requires these rooms to be able to get people in and out quickly in case of emergencies. Lots of doors means lots of noise. The heating and cooling systems are designed to recover quickly when the room fills or empties and tend to be noisey. The expense of adding an acoustical consulting firm and the additional materials required to build a great sounding room means there are very few great sounding rooms built. Modern churches in particular could care less about good acoustics since they are going to buy huge sound systems that simply overpower bad acoustics.

If you read this far you ought to come visit Sweet Owen Sound. It is not huge like the big studios that are falling like dinosaurs, but it was carefully designed to reject outside noise, has extremely quiet mechanical systems and has a frequency response that is balanced and neutral. By design the RT60 (reverberation time) is appropriate and optimized for the recording of a string quartet. It is a superb room to record in.

Nemanja Ostoich

Classical guitarist Nemanja Ostoich recorded his CD ‘first born‘ at Sweet Owen Sound.  This album features music by Barrios, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Morreno-Torroba, Bogdanović, Brouwer, and Koskin.

This album was produced by Tom Yeiser at Sweet Owen Sound, and it was a particular pleasure to read the great reviews (national and international) that the album received.

The recording was made using a Decca Tree and all of the editing was done on the original three tracks. A composite three track recording was rendered before any post production work was done. It was a detailed and time consuming way to work, but the end result was a great sounding album.

This recording was made on a guitar built by John H. Dick (builder information here) and featured a double top (sandwich top) which is faithfully reproduced in this recording. It was a powerful sounding guitar, trading some of the air and sparkle of a traditional solid top for the power and sustain of a sandwich top.

You can find more information about the album on the artist website.

Things you won’t find at Sweet Owen Sound

Audio quality is mostly a function of the room, microphone, preamplifier, and converters in use that create the digital files that audio workstations manipulate. The audio workstation either does the math behind the scenes correctly or does not. With this in mind things you won’t find here include a large mixing console with cheap preamplifiers, equalization and summing circuitry, or expensive software that does not offer real audio and workflow advantages.

Video

Sweet Owen Sound is a complete video authoring service.  I create commercial video in studio or on location, call for more information.

I shoot recital video on campus at JSoM, and audition videos in my studio or on location.  I use techniques and equipment similar to documentary film makers.  Pictured below is my Sound Device 702 stereo audio recorder.  It is state of the art in digital audio recording and simply the best audio recorder on the market today.

I shot video with a Nikon D800 camera and a Ninja II video recorder.  This allows me to capture 1920 x 1080 progressive video at 30 frames a second.  The recorder is usually set a ProRes 4:2:2 which is a nearly uncompressed codec and captures about a gigbyte of data a minute.  Recitals are usually about 85 gigbytes of raw video data.

The kind of lighting corrections that are necessary considering the available light in the university recital rooms is much more effective when their is very little compression in the raw video recording.

While pocket recorders and prosumer video cameras are everywhere they simply do not provide the broadcast quality results that my equipment provides.

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Here is an example of the artwork I create for Video DVDs of JSoM recitals

My DVDs include a two level menu where you can play the entire recital or select individual pieces.

Visit the sweetowensound channel on YouTube!