An Interview with Mastering Engineer Kevin Gray
It’s hard to think of a currently active mastering engineer whose initials appear on more LP lead-out grooves than Kevin Gray’s. He cuts the lacquers for Blue Note’s Tone Poet and Classic Vinyl series, as well as for rock recordings released on vinyl by Intervention Records. He also remasters vinyl reissues for some of Concord’s Craft Recordings reissues, including the newly resurrected Original Jazz Classics series. And that’s just a sampling of his current work.
An Interview with Producer Joe Harley
If you want a good example of vinyl’s healthy return as a format, take a look at Blue Note’s Tone Poet reissue series. Jazz lovers have embraced it, despite the slightly higher costs. The Tone Poet LPs are mastered to an audiophile standard and the packaging reflects the care everyone has taken in presenting the great Blue Note and Pacific Jazz titles in the series. The covers are made of heavy cardboard, with tipped-on, laminated artwork prepared by Stoughton Printing. Most of the covers are gatefolds, with photos from the original sessions. Record Technology Incorporated, one of the best vinyl plants in the world, presses the 180gm LPs.
Vinyl's Growing (or Not Growing) Pains
I’m on the email list for the writer Ted Gioia, who maintains a Substack blog publication called The Honest Broker. Gioia’s list of accomplishments is long—he is a music historian whose many books, including The History of Jazz (in its third edition as of 2021) and Music: A Subversive History (2019), are well regarded. Gioia has also written many music reviews, and, for a time, owned a record label. His fiction reviews are also well worth reading, but they seem to have migrated to The Honest Broker, which is a pay site.
Experience "Xperience" Anew
Music is the reason for high-end audio. I still recall the first time I heard music on something that was better quality than the stereo console my parents owned. When I was in high school, I knew a keyboard player who worked part-time in an electronics supply shop. He convinced the owner, who might have been his dad—we’re going back quite a few years so the details are a bit fuzzy—to let him set up an audio shop in a section of the store.
Making Records: Blue Sprocket Pressing Plant Tour
Harrisonburg, Virginia, is a city of 52,000 in the Shenandoah Valley, about two hours from Washington, DC. Roughly an hour from Charlottesville, Virginia, where you can visit Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, and another Jeffersonian attraction, the University of Virginia, Harrisonburg itself is home to two well-established colleges: James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University. James Madison is a public university of over 21,000 students, while EMU is private and has about 1200 students.
What I Heard: 2022
It was the year live music was supposed to be back. And it was, in some senses—although pandemic-related restrictions continued to play havoc with musicians’ travel and festival schedules, and artists continued to reflect on the theme of “What the hell just happened?”
Fix It in the Mix: Mixing
Woo-hoo! You made it through the recording process, but your work’s not done yet. Now you have to take all those separate tracks and turn them into something other people can listen to—and, ideally, something they want to hear. This process is called mixing or mixing down. The mixdown stage can seem daunting at first, especially when you have many tracks to mix. However, with practice, it’s not that big a deal on a modern digital audio workstation (DAW). It’s easier if you’re also the person who did the recording—you’re already familiar with the tracks, and you were probably working on the mix during the recording. But that’s not essential, and for this column I’ll be assuming that someone else recorded the tracks. The same principles apply to both situations.
Fix It in the Mix: Recording a Rock Band
Last time, I talked about recording solo artists and duets and offered some general advice about recording. This time I’m going to focus on recording a standard rock band: drums, bass guitar, guitar(s), keyboard, and vocals. Working with a band requires more experimentation, and it will challenge you to come up with more creative solutions than recording and mixing smaller acts. But in my book, that’s part of the fun. So this time, I’ll concentrate mainly on process and production tips to help make the final product (your music) better; they may also save you some time and a few headaches. I’ve already covered some basics on microphones and how they “hear” in prior articles, so if you haven’t read those articles, now’s a good time to catch up.
Fix It in the Mix: A Seven Nation Army of Me
This month in “Fix It in the Mix,” I’ll focus on recording music, like modern pop and electronica, that’s primarily non-acoustic but may have one or a few acoustic instruments thrown in (including vocals, the original acoustic instrument).
Fix It in the Mix: All About Mike(s)
Last time in “Fix It in the Mix,” I talked a lot about planning a recording session. I’ll talk a bit more about that here, but this installment is mostly about the process of recording itself. I don’t focus too much on precisely where to place the microphone(s) for any given instrument—there are countless sources for the best way to mike, for example, a drum kit or an acoustic guitar (all of which are both right and wrong). This series is more about giving you the most basic tools for translating what you hear in your head into something playable on a stereo. And in this installment I talk about how microphones “hear,” and give you some basic techniques for getting them to give you the sound you want.