Waiting for the mail that never comes – Talk about anxiety!

Imagine how you might feel if you were anxiously waiting for some good news from The U.S. Patent Office as well as Guinness World Records on some important projects you are working on. Yeah, that’s where I’m at right now. Every morning, after four months, I’m checking my email for whether Guinness is going to go for my world record of the most overdubbed voices on a sound recording. Also, every day I’m checking the U.S. mail after over three years of waiting to hear about our Patent Application for our Miniaturized Surround Sound Loudspeaker Placement Platform. The full Application with drawings is here. My wife, Fran and I came up with this one. And she is also busy as all hell with her great work on her items for pets, such as collars, leashes, bow ties and you name it on her website, PamperYourPet Boutique. As you can see, there’s never a dull moment at our house.

The  Miniaturized Surround Sound Loudspeaker Placement Platform is all about listening to 5.1 sound inches away from the speakers instead of feet. I spent months writing it myself in legal fashion and doing about thirty drawings, since Patent attorneys charge thousands. I’m trying to make a plan that will include both of these projects and have written and tossed at least a dozen attempts to write a decent plan for some crowd funding on Indiegogo. I reckon that if Guinness doesn’t come through, I’ll just complete the recording without them. I’m up to 126 voices to date doing the Hallelujah Chorus, soprano, alto, tenor and bass, to wind up with a country rock feel.

It would be nice to have their name on it. To my knowledge, no one has ever overdubbed as many voices as I have on a recording. So, since I know it has never been done, I have a shot with some good publicity, I guess. But if they fall through, I’ll just do it without them. Their last demand was that if they took it on, I would need to sell 10,000 records. I answered with this:

“With all due respect of your professionalism, there is no record company in the world who would guarantee any sales, and no way 10,000 sales of a recording… Also, it’s unique quality of mixing classical with Nashville country style band backing, may not appeal to anyone… Secondly, it makes sense to me that laboring and/or singing and recording 11 hours (4 minutes x 175 voices = 700 ÷60 = 11 hours) of my voices should at least be offered to the public to buy, rather than to have it sit on the shelf just to say ‘I did it.’ Most people will say, ‘so what?’ And so will I. Therefore, it makes sense to offer it for sale on my label and then attempt to get major label interest.”

So, am I off the wall or what? Actually, they upped the number requirement from 175 to 200 voices, which I said ok, no problem. What’s another 100 minutes of singing for a world record?

This is reminiscent of negotiating with used car salesmen, real estate agents, department store appliance salesmen, and strange as it may seem, this is starting to look like a negotiation game here with Guinness. It appears that they may be just looking for money.

They say on their website that it will take four to six weeks to give an answer. In my case now, since my application on Feb. 11. 2013, it is going into the fifth month. They say, “At Guinness World Records, we take great care to evaluate every claim we receive. Before we accept or reject a new record proposal, we always carry out claim-specific research, which may require the expertise of external consultants. As a consequence, a Standard Application requires four to six weeks to be reviewed…If you Fast Track the initial application or upgrade your standard claim, the cost of the service is £450 / $700 + 20% VAT (if applicable). Please note that payment for the Fast Track services guarantees that your record application is given priority treatment to be researched and processed.”

Therefore, if I had given them $700 plus 20% VAT on Feb. 11, I would have had an answer in three days on about Feb. 14. Also, for quite a few more hundred dollars and travel and hotel expenses I can have one of their judges at our event to speed things up more and also have an immediate answer.

Do I really need this aggravation? How about I just do it, and tell the world, “Hey, I just did another world record of overdubbing my voice 200 times on a recording. Here is the proof.” Proving is not that difficult, since my voice will be just about the same on every track. And I can show a track for every voice. Tell me what you think about this. I’d love to hear some of your comments.

As far as the Patent Application is concerned, usually no company will be interested in taking on abn invention unless a Patent has been issued, and you are up against thousands of others out there trying to sell a Patent. And according to statistics, it’s just like songs. There are thousands of songwriters and not a lot of them get out there. Believe me, writing a Patent Application is like writing a thesis, and writing the claims is almost impossible So, I guess I’ll have to just wait it out on both accounts to form a plan for Indiegogo. Oh, well, maybe tomorrow. Sounds like another song.

How to filter out the sound of the Goodyear Blimp engines

I watched some of the U.S. Open last week. It happened only about ten miles from where we live, here in Northeast Philly. But, watching on TV was a lot easier than trekking over there and walking miles in the rain. I was drawn to it by the sound of the Goodyear blimp, which would fly over us on the way to cover the event from above. It made me wonder how many Goodyear blimps there are, since they seem to be everywhere you go.

We live close to the Northeast Philly airport, and in fact, are at the very end of the longest runway. It’s not so bothersome, inasmuch as the sounds of three or four jets a day taking off and flying over only lasts a few seconds. But when the blimp slowly flew over every morning last week heading to the Merion Golf Course in Ardmore, PA, the constant sound of the engines drew my interest to make me run outside to get a closer look at this beautiful machine flying over me. Also my curiosity took me to Google to find out that there are three in the U.S., which fly over sporting events like Merion.

As a musician, the sound, or the pitch of the engines resonated and lasted in my ears and made me wonder what hertz, or frequency, I was hearing. So, I found the pitch by comparing it with playing a note on my guitar but I soon forgot what it was. By the way, the telephone dial tone, when you pick it up to dial, gives you a pure “F” chord, with the notes F, A and C. So if you have good relative pitch, you can tune your instrument this way.

It wasn’t too much later, when I tuned in to the tournament on TV, that I heard the same sound of the blimp’s engines over the announcers’ voices, constantly, throughout the reporting. It was a pain and a bore that their microphones were picking up the apparently un-muffler-ed sound of the blimp’s engines, throughout the day. And then, later I would hear the blimp returning to the airport.

It dawned on me later that if I were the audio engineer on the job, I would insert what is known as a “dip” filter into the circuit. It is a gizmo that finds the annoying hertz, or frequency, and enables you to dip the program only at that frequency, and filter out most of the noise.

The moral here is that the next time you are watching an event on TV where the blimp is hovering over and you hear the constant annoying sound, call the station and tell them how to fix it. By the same token, if you are an audio engineer at one of these events, and you are tired of the job and want to piss your boss off, and maybe want to collect unemployment, throw in the filter. When you find that frequency of the blimp’s engines, instead of dipping it, boost it to where that is almost all you hear, and guaranteed, you’ll be able to collect your unemployment in a New York minute, a Texas second or an Indiana instant.

So, on Monday, June 17, the day after Merion, I awoke early to hear at least 15 or 20 private jets take off and fly over me, the most ever, and I assumed that it was, indeed, all the billion or millionaire players heading home or wherever. It left me dreaming and thinking how great it would be to just get in your own plane and be wherever you want to be in no time. Well, I can dream can’t I? Sounds like a song. By the way, I wrote a new one over the weekend. Can’t wait to record it. No, the blimp sounds won’t work on it. Guess I’ll go over to the Boulevard (Roosevelt Speedway- It’s three blocks away) and record some 2 and 4 wheeler speedsters sounds for the demo. The Boulevard’s almost like Indy. They all do 60 and more and race to the next light only to sit there and wait for the green light, then speed on to the next light. Anybody know how to filter out those nuts?

Whats to blog about?

Well, everyone around me told me I should do a blog. “On what?” I kept saying. And then, I thought about it. Maybe I could say a few things about some of my life and times in the music and recording businesses that somebody may be interested in. Maybe not. Perhaps a few words here and there about where I may have been could even be helpful to somebody. Maybe! Or, maybe a little history of some things I’ve been through in my career. I’ve been to forty-two states and lived and worked in eleven. But many will say, “So what?” And rightly so. But maybe the person who has never left Podunk might be interested in what I might have to say. Maybe not. Later on I’ll be telling about how I could have been Elvis, and another story about turning down a career with the Four Freshmen.

But there is one observation I want to make from the start, and that is about reading what others have written or said in posts or blogs or even news articles. Frankly, practically anything we read nowadays stirs up feelings inside provoking thoughts on defending, attacking, siding etc., and our wanting to vent some of our own feelings about what was said. One might feel jealousy, resentment, self-righteousness, superiority, or a self proclaimed Ph D’s entitlement to know it all about everything. And what do we do next? We want to tell the bastard off. We look for any negative we can find and press on it. We quickly write a comment of what’s on our mind: right, wrong, good, bad or indifferent. Why? I guess because it makes us feel better in some way or proud. “I told that SOB off.” or “You’re such a loser.” or “You don’t know what the hell you’re taking about.” etc., etc., etc. So, where are the credentials to form these opinions? There aren’t any.

This is also reminiscent of some of us who, when watching television with others, have a negative comment about a character, a scene, a product, a band, a host, etc.

But really, right or wrong, who cares? We are all entitled to think what we want, dammit! And what I am getting to is this: Whatever I write, I know there will be those whose prime desire will be to start up with me, and say some strange and hurtful things in a possible attempt to upstage, be better and even attempt to prove me wrong and be better. In essence, one has to be the expert. “I know more than you do.” So, all I can say is this: If that somehow makes you better than thou, then go for it.

So, I guess I will say whatever I think I might need to say for whatever reason. If you get bored, which I am sure some will be, then change the channel. Granted, I don’t know it all, but just a little that maybe you never heard about and might want to hear more about some of my times in the music and recording business, and a little history.

So, no matter how you feel about what I might write, I invite you to comment, and no matter what you might write, I will truly appreciate your thoughts positive or negative, no matter what. So, stay tuned.

My first splice wasn’t on tape

Well, I guess everyone can assume by now that RoughmixDon is an overdub freak, in addition to being an actual music and recording freak. In another post I mentioned about 227 voices on America The Beautiful, and that was in 2003.

Adding a voice a year now puts me up to 237 voices in 2013. I was hoping for doing it by July 4. But it’s not going to happen..

My very first interest in recording occurred back in grade school. I don’t remember too much about the times, but I was singing when I was seven and they told me I could sing 50 songs at that time. My sister played the piano and we had a weekly program on AM station KRIC in Beaumont, Texas. My greatest fascination, I recall, was to watch them make recordings in the back room. Then one day, the engineer dropped one and it shattered. They were glass discs coated with something black that spun around while being cut with a needle. Not too many years later I was still singing and learned the guitar and was in a country band that played on the same station. There they were, recording on the same machine, I guess, but on aluminum with the black stuff. Acetate, I guess.

Sometime in high school, before tape was introduced, our director obtained a wire recorder, where a long piece of steel wire ran through a machine, like a tape recorder and recorded magnetically. It wasn’t great fidelity as we know it today, but what a thrill it was to sit and watch this little thin piece of wire play back our choir. That is, until one day after recording a wonderful choral performance of the Hallelujah Chorus, the wire broke. What to do? On top of getting tangled in a big mess on the reel no one knew what to do with fixing it so I got out the book and studied it.

Webster-Chicago_wire_recorder

A wire recorder from the late ’40s

First of all, unlike tape recorders, the jackasses who made these things provided no take-up reel, so you had to rewind the whole long wire onto the fixed reel before you could even use the machine again on something else. There was a roll of tangled wire on each little reel. The instructions for a break were to tie the ends  together. I was assigned the task. Just how much sound would we lose? With the wire running at 24 inches per second, we’d need at least 2 inches for a good square knot, and then trim the ends. Maybe I can do it with 1 inch, I thought. So, they got me a pair of tweezers and that was my very first edit. It wasn’t so bad. So, we lost about a 15th of a second, heard a little bump as it went through and I was the hero.

I was a soloist in the choir and also sang tenor. I completely memorized the tenor part to the Hallelujah Chorus, and through the years I would sing it at times. I’ll be telling of how I recorded myself doing all the voices as a chorus of one. The interest in recording stayed with me for a long time, especially, since I was a singer-songwriter and played bass and guitar, and couldn’t afford to pay studio rates to record my demos. So while I was studying radio and television at RCA Institutes in New York City in the middle ’50s, I decided that audio and recording was my thing.

With the advent of four track (quarter track) on a quarter inch tape machine, (two tracks one way and two the other way by flipping the tape) I decided to reinvent the system for myself. I had a two track machine so I bought some of those quarter track heads and mounted a record head to record two track normally, and mounted a playback head next to it to record the other two tracks. I jury-rigged it so I could record on all four tracks one at a time in one direction. As if that wasn’t enough, I had to buy another machine so I could mix the 4 tracks. Long story short, I could record three tracks of instruments and my voice and mix that to the other machine. I would then take the tape over to Charlie Brave’s Allegro Studio on Broadway and have him cut an acetate. That’s what your ten inch 78 was called, which was an aluminum coated with acetate. They weren’t the greatest recordings but it was a start. Later, I bought a Presto disc cutter that I could cut my own demos. The problem with that machine was what was recorded would play back from the inside out, like CDs do now. Ten years later I would be mixing an album with Les Paul at Columbia and sharing some stories of our early recording days, and playing bass on several of his recordings in the mix room.

 

 

 

When they say your “drum sound is ABSOLUTELY OUT OF THIS WORLD “

How did he get that drum sound on Dylan? And how did you get that name, “Roughmix Don.”

Just so happened that a guy contacted me from a forum a couple years ago where they were chatting about the drums on a recording I had done. It happened to be the Bob Dylan Desire Album that I engineered and mixed in 1975.

“Hello. I’m new here,” wrote Dolphin King,  “And I hope this is the right place to ask this question: On Dylan’s 1975/76 ‘Desire’, the drum sound is ABSOLUTELY OUT OF THIS WORLD –>*DELICIOUS*<–, I mean particularly the snare hits. For example, check out the song ‘Isis’. the snare on that album sounds so solid and powerful, I describe it as inter-stellar-stone-age snare sound. Does anyone here know how that sound was achieved? How do you get such a sound? I MUST know. I’ve posted this on a few different forums. MY KINGDOM FOR AN ANSWER!
Yours,
D.K.”

Well, I tuned in for awhile reading some sarcasm and assorted smartass remarks and DK came back with, “I’ve received some very different answers from different people on this, including on different forums. But thanks again for your reply…By the way, what would your reverb/delay setup be here, if you were trying to get that sound?”

Archtop came back with, “I think it sounds like a real chamber reverb, and there is some on the snare, but not much, at times it seems like I can hear a hint of a tiny short delay (80ms.) on the snare, but in the mix it still seems fairly dry, the verb is sorta washed out and you don’t notice it so easily. If I was trying to get that sound, I would not be concerned with the verb or delay, but look for a snare that is dry and bright on it’s own.”

Seems kind of strange seeing guys write about and speculate and guess what you had done on a recording. So, one of them spotted my name in the credits and sent me an email and asked me to come on the sight.

Posting as “RoughmixDon, I wrote him back, “Thanks for inviting me in. I guess I’m proud to say that ‘Desire’ was one of my best recordings. Drums and bass are my favorites to record. Maybe because I’m a bass player too. I tried to load up the story of the ‘Desire’ session but it cut me off in the middle. Maybe I’ll just have to send it in two or three parts.”

I filled them in with what I had done on that session, since I had taken a lot of notes through the years with a book in mind and then I wrote, “My best advice on trying to achieve the same drum sound is to put “Isis” or one of the others up in your program and a-b and try to match it on the timeline, pitch wise, eq wise and strength wise, echo wise, and level wise.”

In fact, I think this is good advice for anyone attempting to recreate the sound of what someone has recorded. As a side note here, the drums you hear on the song, My Silent Symphony at best advice was very much like Dylan’s fabulous “Desire” drummer, Howie Wyeth, with the great Ronnie Traxler on drums. Dynamite! I recorded Ronnie and all others the same way. You didn’t just set up a microphone, we’d sometimes spend upwards of an hour getting a good drum sound. By the way, I overdubbed about thirty of my voices on My Silent Symphony – Should have been a hit.

“By the way,” DK asked. “Where did you get that name, RoughmixDon?

Well, I explained that for a reference copy, I would set up my mix on a studio session with 8 sub-mixes and ride the faders with 8 fingers riding from the beginning to the end of a song, and almost always, I would come up with a mix that would be at or near a final mix. In a three month session with “Miami” Steve Van Zandt, who hung nicknames on everyone, he hung RoughmixDon on me. Thus was 1977, and I have used it ever since. Later on, I’ll be telling about that grueling winter of ’77, locked in the studio with “Miami Steve,” ‘Southside” Johnny, the Jukes and the “Boss,” Bruce Springsteen. And yes, it was Steve who named him the “Boss.”

More On Bob Dylan and My Favorite Mixing Technique

Continued with posting my comments on a forum

So I told the guys on the forum that my style of mixing was and is to bring everything to 8 busses and lay my eight fingers on the faders and constantly ride each one with a finger, like playing a piano, against the singer or lead instrument. This will allow snare and tom fills and anything else to be brought up when appropriate. The singer track will always be on my right hand index (bass) playing finger which was and is the most sensitive. I would always help the snare and toms in the mix on their individual buss pots.

This album was no exception. And this procedure makes a powerful player even more powerful. I know that some set up a mix and let it sit there, raising and lowering this and that across a board of 24, 32 etc inputs, but my style has always been to play the mix.

Another habit of mine in those days and what I did on that album mix was to mix a stereo onto two tracks of the 24 track two inch tape, in line of course, with all the tracks. I never used automation. This way if we got a great mix with a slight lacking of a vocal part or instrument, or the bass drum wasn’t loud enough, etc. we could run that 2 track mix again to a 2 track adding the stuff needed.

This is a technique I still use today in digital and I guess others might also be doing this. Do your mix in line with everything else and add or help what is needed with automation. Another idea is to do maybe two or three different mixes in line and then add them together, making sure they are in perfect phase. In my experience, though, I could never achieve that kind of mix with a mouse mix.

In my experience with mouse mixing my taste tells me that it is nowhere near the same as a live mix with spontaneous control, although in c I recorded myself in my personal studio singing 227 (for 227 years) overdub voices on America The Beautiful and did a mouse mix in Vegas 4. As a mouse mix, it’s not as hot as I would like it to be. I did 5 or 6 mixes and a cappella. But none of them had the energy that they should have had for my taste.

Oh well, I added 3 more voices and did it right for the year 2006. However, lately, since I don’t have a digital mixer, I make the most of automation, but I’m thinking of ousting the mouse and going out of the box from digital back to analog to mix through the board back to digital. This way I can use my eight fingers technique with a spontaneous mix. Any comments on this?

By the way, someone spoke of Bob Johnston. He was out of the picture for “Desire.” But if anyone is interested, I have another interesting story about the original hit mix (and my mixing notes of July 26, 1965) on Simon & Garfunkel Sounds of Silence, the album mixes, and Tom Wilson, and Bob Johnson and 6 watt monitor amps. This is all part of a book I am working on. I often wonder if anyone would really be interested?

RoughmixDon Meehan, the unsung hero of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence. So, another engineer took the credit and ran with it. By the way, here’s those notes on my original mix on Sounds of Silence and Somewhere mixed from 4 track. Note the uncanny high end Pultec EQ boost.

SIMON GARFUNKEL S O S MIX crop072665