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My Take on Music Recording is a podcast that covers many different aspects of the recording process, with a focus on the intersection of art and technology. Although recording is a technical process, it also involves music and musicians, working with engineers to create a satisfying experience for the listener.

Doug Fearn has made his living from professional audio since 1966 as a recording engineer, studio owner, record producer, and pro audio equipment designer and manufacturer.

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Your comments and suggestions are always welcomed

Updated 15 July 2021

copyright 2020-2021 Douglas W. Fearn


#41 Obie O’Brien: A Life in Music - Part 1                            March 18, 2021

Talk about a life in music! Obie O’Brien has done many things in his musical career, starting with playing drums when he was 12, to building a basement studio in the 1960s, to owning a sophisticated studio in Philadelphia. And for over 30 years, working with Jon Bon Jovi in many capacities.

I first met Obie in the early 1970s, at my studio. We hit it off right away with our similar approach to music and recording. But we lost touch for a couple of decades. Now Obie lives not too far from me and has built a wonderful studio for his own projects, where he works with up-and-coming artists.

For the last year, Obie has been at home during the pandemic. Previously, he was touring with Bon Jovi almost all the time. This has given us much more time to hang out, listen to what each of us is working on, and for Obie to tell me about the amazing work he is doing, like re-mixing many songs by Motown artists from the 60s.

This is the first of two parts of our long conversation, in which we talk about those topics and a whole lot more.

Thanks for sharing the podcast with others. That is important for building my audience. You can always reach me at dwfearn@dwfearn.com with your comments, suggested topics, or questions.

 

#42  Obie O’Brien: A Life in Music - Part 2                            March 27, 2021

This is the second half of the conversation I had with engineer/producer/mixer/musician/songwriter Obie O’Brien. Obie is best known for his long-time work with Jon Bon Jovi, but as you will hear, he has done many things in his career.

 I don’t think I know anyone who is more enthusiastic about the art of making and recording music than Obie.

In this final part of our conversation, we talk about re-mixing Motown hits, restoring a thousand reels of 2-inch tape from the Bon Jovi tours, and his latest venture, a vinyl pressing plant. But we started off talking about his own studio in Pennsylvania.

Thanks to all of you who have subscribed to this podcast on the various podcasting apps. You can reach me at dwfearn@dwfearn.com with your comments and suggestions.

#43  Latency and Delay                            April 9, 2021

We tend to think that electronic signals travel instantaneously, but they do not. They are merely very fast. And the time delay can be perceived by humans under some circumstances.

In this episode, I tell the story of hearing my Morse code Amateur Radio signal coming back after circling the Earth, and how there was significant delay in the time it took for broadcast radio network signals to travel through thousands of miles of dedicated telephone lines.

Our digital audio world is full of delays of a different type: latency, which is the result of the time it takes for a computer to do its work. This latency can have a profound effect on a musical performance in the studio. Is there a way around this problem?

Sound delays are part of our world, and reverberation is an example of a “good” kind of delay, as is short repeats of a vocal or other musical sound.

Latency (almost always bad) and delay (which can be good) are two terms that describe much the same thing. Knowing how to use this displacement in time can make your recordings better – or worse.

Thanks to all of you for subscribing to this podcast, now carried on over 30 podcast providers.

And your comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome. dwfearn@dwfearn.com

 

#44  Theater of the Mind                            April 26, 2021

There is a story from the early days of television. A reporter asked a young boy if he preferred to watch a baseball game on TV, or listen to it on the radio.

His answer was immediate. “On the radio. The pictures are so much better!”

We work with sound, and except for music videos and live performances, the sound recording is all that people have to experience the work of a songwriter and artist. Part of our job as recordists, I believe, is to provide a rendition of the music that evokes the desired images in the listener’s imagination.

In this episode, I talk about that, plus creating sound effects, and musical sounds that we need to help get the message across. Most of us have wonderful audio tools for making all kinds of interesting sounds we can record, either for a musical piece or for a special purpose. It is a chance for us to get creative, and perhaps come up with something that paints a memorable picture in the listener’s imagination.

.Thanks to all of you for subscribing to this podcast, now carried on over 30 podcast providers.

And your comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome. dwfearn@dwfearn.com

 

#45  Vacuum Tube Fundamentals                            May 10, 2021

Ever wonder how do vacuum tubes actually work?  Tubes are one electronic device that you can actually see how they operate. I explain vacuum tube fundamentals in this conversation with Matthew Glosson.

Matthew has been working for D.W. Fearn for the past year, mostly with Geoff Hazelrigg on the manufacturing side of the business. Recently he constructed some prototype circuits for me, as part of my new product development.

Matthew recently graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia with a degree in music technology, among other things. He just completed a prototype that was part of an investigation into a possible new product concept, and he was curious about the circuit and why I did certain things.

As he was on his way in for us to discuss that, it occurred to me that our conversation might be of interest to you.

This is a recording of our impromptu lesson on how tubes work. I really didn’t have anything planned, so this is quite informal. And I would probably explain things a bit better if I had prepared more. But I still think it’s useful.

The recording is less professional than I would have liked, but we were on opposite sides of a ribbon mic, far enough apart to be properly social-distanced. You can hear the HVAC and other extraneous noise, including my dogs.

A few drawings are available for this episode, under “Extras

Thanks to all of you for subscribing to this podcast, now carried on over 30 podcast providers.

And your comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome. dwfearn@dwfearn.com

 

#46  Location Recording                            May 23, 2021

Most of us record in studios of various types. But sometimes it is necessary, or advantageous, to record on location.

I’ve had a studio most of my career, but in the early days, I recorded entirely on location. More recently, before I built my present studio, I did quite a few location recordings, in many types of venues. Some were concert halls, theaters, or sports arenas, but many were in churches, community spaces, outside, or even in people’s homes.

Those location recordings taught me a lot about acoustics, mic placement, and dealing with unforeseen obstacles.

Although location recording will most likely be of a performance, sometimes it is desirable to record in a space that has more area, or better acoustics for a particular piece of music. Or maybe you just need a larger/better space to record horns, strings, or a choral background vocal.

In this episode, I share some of my experiences of recording outside the studio. A transcript of this episode is available here.

If you have any suggestions for future podcast topics, please let me know. I am sometimes surprised by the response to a particular episode. Predicting what you like is a bit of a challenge. So please let me know what interests you.

And any comments or suggestions are always welcomed. Please subscribe to this podcast on any of the 30 providers that carry it. Thanks.

And your comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome. dwfearn@dwfearn.com

 

#47  Harpsichord Recording                            June 4, 2021

In this short episode, I describe the process I went through on a recent recording project. We were recording a harpsichord, an instrument I had some experience recording, but never before as a solo instrument in the studio.

We were recording a Bach Fantasy and Fugue piece, played by George Hazelrigg. George has been playing harpsichord all his life, although the piano is his main instrument these days.

It took us about ten hours of experimenting to get the sound we wanted. I describe the process.

Although you may never have occasion to record a harpsichord like this, you might still find the process I went through useful.

In the podcast, I mention a video we did that describes our technique for recording grand piano. Here is the link to that video:

https://www.facebook.com/DWFearnProfessionalAudioProducts/posts/2837669519662094

There is a transcript for this episode, avaialbe here:

Thanks for subscribing to this podcast. And if you have any comments, suggestions, or ideas for topics, please let me know. You can reach me at  dwfearn@dwfearn.com

And please share this podcast with anyone you think would be interested.

#48  Tracking, Mixing, and Mastering                            June 18, 2021

In the days before tape recording, records had to be made “live,” with the performance going directly to a master lacquer disc. In the 1950s, when recording to tape became possible, the mastering step could be detached from recording, but the performance was still captured live.

When multitrack tape became universal in studios in the 1960, the concept of mixing after recording emerged.

In the decades that followed, many engineers chose to specialize in one of the three steps made possible by the technology. Some were tracking engineers, who captured the performance. Mixers specialized in creatively combining the tracks, and a mastering engineer did the transfer from the master mix tape to lacquer disc master.

This specialization has only increased in the digital age. And, for the most part, it is beneficial for our profession. It works because some of us love to capture the music, but have no interest in mixing it. Others find working with artists, which can sometimes be very stressful, unappealing and prefer to work on their own, just mixing.

And with the rise of digital formats for the consumer, what need was there for a mastering engineer? Well, the mastering engineers re-invented their craft and used their talents to enhance the recording.

The mixing and mastering steps also became opportunities to fix imperfections that should have been addressed in the original recording.

In this episode, I suggest that perhaps some of us should consider returning to the original concept of making a record with one engineer doing all three steps. This is likely to be a small segment of our engineering community, but “mastering” all aspects of recording might make better recordings.

There is a transcript for this episode, avaialbe here:

Thanks for subscribing to this podcast. And if you have any comments, suggestions, or ideas for topics, please let me know. You can reach me at  dwfearn@dwfearn.com

And please share this podcast with anyone you think would be interested.

#49  Robin Eaton: Songwriter, Musician, Studio Owner                   July 1, 2021

Robin Eaton is a songwriter, musician, vocalist, and studio owner based in Nashville. I’ve known Robin for over 40 years, since he lived in nearby Wilmington, Delaware. He came into my studio around 1980 to record demos for several songs and I was blown away by the quality of his compositions.

In this informal and wide-ranging conversation, Robin talks about his early influences, such as writing poetry when he was five years old, his adventures in the music business in the U.S. and Europe, and how he eventually settled in Nashville and now owns two very successful studios.

As a songwriter, Robin as has a long-time collaboration with Jill Sobule, and many others.

You can listen to a couple of Robin’s songs here.

Thanks for subscribing to this podcast. And if you have any comments, suggestions, or ideas for topics, please let me know. You can reach me at  dwfearn@dwfearn.com

And please share this podcast with anyone you think would be interested.

#50  Dolby Atmos explained by Dale Becker                   July 15, 2021

Major record labels and other music providers are committed to adopting Dolby Atmos and other immersive audio technologies. There is a huge amount of work available to re-mix a label’s entire catalog in the new formats.

Dale Becker, of Becker Mastering in Los Angeles, has become an expert on the practical aspects of Dolby Atmos. You may remember Dale from Episode 16 last year. Dale is a sought-after mastering engineer with decades of experience. He masters many of the most important recordings of our time.

In this new episode, Dale explains Dolby Atmos, the advantages to the music listener, his experiences in starting from zero and learning all he could about the format, and he explains how the new immersive audio formats are changing our job. Dale explains the basics of Atmos, and the challenges and rewards of setting up a control room for the format. He also gives us insight on how we might change our recording habits with Atmos in mind.

Thanks for subscribing to this podcast. And if you have any comments, suggestions, or ideas for topics, please let me know. You can reach me at  dwfearn@dwfearn.com

And please share this podcast with anyone you think would be interested.