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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 6 March 2021

copyright 2020-2021 Douglas W. Fearn


31 - My Recording Career, Part 1: Early influences and first studio            November 18, 2020

This two-part episode tells the story of my life in recording. It starts out with the musical and electronic experiences that shaped my career and then describes the process of learning about recording and the many disciplines required. I explain how my first studio was constructed and the challenges I faced and mostly overcame. I trace the steady increase in track count -- this was in the days of tape, of course -- and the transition from analog to digital.

Throughout, I describe the experiences that changed my approach to recording.

Part 1 ends in 1973, when my studio was 8-track.

Many elements of this story could be expanded into an episode of its own. If you would like to hear more about an aspect, please let me know.

Thank you for all your great comments and feedback. This episode was the result of listener feedback. If you have comments, questions, or suggestions for future episodes, please contact me at dwfearn@dwfearn.com

This podcast was recorded with an AEA R44CXE microphone into a D.W. Fearn VT-2 mic preamp, into a VT-4 Equalizer and VT-7 Compressor. The converter is a Merging Technologies Hapi and the software is Pyramix. The original recording was made at 96kHz sample rate, 24-bit PCM.

You can subscribe to this podcast through Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, and many other podcast providers.

#32   Disc Cutting                 December 10, 2020

I never did any disc mastering, but I did cut thousands of lacquer discs. I explained how I learned this art, and describe the process of cutting a disc. The medium imposes a lot of restrictions, not only in the disc-cutting process, but also going back to the recording and mixing.

In addition, I include some thoughts on the vinyl record medium. I definitely have a love-hate relationship with records.

As always, thanks for your comments and feedback.

#33   All Kinds of Distortion                 December 28, 2020

Distortion is present in all electronic audio equipment and on all recordings. Sometimes it is part of the sound, such as in an electric guitar.

But distortion is usually something we try to avoid.

In this episode, I go through the most common types of distortion, their impact on the listener, where the distortion comes from, and what we can do to minimize it.

This is somewhat technical, but I try to keep the explanations simple. Learning how to identify the sources of distortion, and how to mitigate them, should help you make better recordings.

I’ve recently added a new feature to the dougfearn.com web site. You can now read transcripts of many of the podcast episodes online, and download them is you like. Not all episodes have transcripts, just those that are scripted. Let me know if you find the transcripts useful.

Thank you to all of you who have subscribed to My Take On Music Recording, left reviews and ratings. The podcast is available on dozens of different podcast platforms. And thanks to those who have written to me via email. I will try to answer all of them. You can send email to dwfearn@dwfearn.com

#34   All Kinds of Noise                                      January 7, 2021

Since the earliest days of sound recording, noise has been a major limitation in audio quality. In early part of my career, tape hiss was usually the biggest challenge. But today’s digital recorders are virtually noise-free in most situations.

We still have to battle with noise, but the sources of the noise have changed. Today’s engineer has to deal with noise generated by the switched-mode power supplies that are in our LED bulbs, computer equipment, and even appliances. These sources of noise can get into electric guitars and create quite a racket. But the noise can also raise the noise floor in subtle ways, and we might not immediately recognize the source. Light dimmers, cell phones, and solar panels are other sources of noise.

In this episode, I talk about the various causes of noise, and provide some tips on how to identify the source, and advice on how to eliminate, or at least minimize, the noise on your recording.

For more in-depth, practical suggestions on how to avoid and mitigate electrical noise, my friend Jim Brown has a wonderful set of tutorials and presentations. Jim is an expert on this topic and has served on AES Committees for decades. Go to his web site, http://www.k9yc.com/publish.htm and scroll down to the section titled, “Hum, Buzz, and RF Interference -- Written for Audio Professionals.” You will find several excellent resources there.

There is a transcript for this episode. If you want a written version, you can download a PDF version from dougfearn.com

And please keep the suggestions and comments coming. Your feedback helps me determine what I should talk about.

If there is sufficient interest, I am considering having an occasional question and answer episode. If you have something you would like me to answer, record it in your studio with your best equipment. In keeping with the high audio quality goal of my podcast, you can record your questions at 24-bit, 96kHz sample rate and send the file to dwfearn@dwfearn.com

Simple questions I can answer in an episode dedicated to answering them. Some other topics may suggest an entire episode dedicated to the topic.

Please tell your friends and colleagues about this podcast. And leave your ratings and reviews with the podcast app you use. Thanks.

This episode was recorded with a Sennheiser MKH8050 microphone instead of my usual AEA R44. The MKH8050 is an amazingly clean-sounding mic, although it is probably not the best choice for vocals or voice recording. The preamp is a D.W. Fearn VT-2 and the converters are by Merging Technologies. The audio was processed through a D.W. Fearn VT-4 equalizer and a VT-7 Compressor. The original recording is 24-bit, 96kHz.

 

#35   Colin Hay, singer-songwriter                                      January 12, 2021

Even if you don’t recognize the name Colin Hay, I guarantee that you  have heard him. Colin is best known for his band, “Men At Work,”€ the  Australian group that had #1 hits such as, “Down Under”€ and “Who Can It  Be Now”€ in the 1980s. Men at Work sold over 30 million albums during  their existence.

Since then, the singer-songwriter has worked as a solo artist,  touring the world, sometimes truly solo and other times with a band.

He has been a “Star”€ on several tours with the Ringo and the All-Stars ensemble, starting in 2003.

Colin has also had an acting career, performing his own songs in  movies and TV shows, and even an experience in a Shakespeare touring  company.

By the way, Colin is originally from Scotland, as you will quickly notice from his accent.

This interview is not about his career, although we talk about that a bit, but instead focuses on his recording experience. Colin has had his own sophisticated home studio for decades and uses his space to record  his songs.

We also talk about the art of songwriting and, well, a life in music.

Here are links to a a few of Colin's songs:

“Down Under” € Men At Work https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfmxO-HQ5rU

“Who Can It Be Now?”  € Men At Work https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuFC6ud1cAQ

“Maggie”  € Colin Hay  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDuvFz0WQ-g
 

Colin has generously offered to answer listener questions in a future podcast episode. If you have something to ask him, send me an email, or better yet, a 24-bit, 96kHz audio version. You can send it to dwfearn@dwfearn.com

When we have enough questions to make a show, we will record it.

As always, thanks for listening, and for all your great comments and suggestions.

#36   Cables, Connectors, and Studio Wiring                  January 21, 2021

We all need cables and connectors to tie all our mics and other equipment together. There are many places where problems can be introduced into your recording, caused by improper wiring. Even when everything appears to be working properly, poor wiring and connector practices can cause subtle problems that make your recordings less than they could be.

In this episode, I talk about how we came to use the balanced audio lines in our studios, and why we have the connectors we use. I explain why it is vital that we make or buy quality cables and connectors, and why esoteric, very expensive cables are unlikely to sound any better.

There are some hints on how to troubleshoot cable and wiring problems, based on the problem you hear. And some practical suggestions to keep your cables in good condition, and how to run them around your studio.

There is a transcript for this episode, available at dougfearn.com or on the Buzzsprout site.

Thanks for all your comments, questions, and suggestions. They are appreciated.

 

#37   Abbey Road Studios: My three days of recording         February 2, 2021

I’ve had the privilege to work in some iconic studios, but the one that made the biggest impression on me was Abbey Road in London.

I spent three days doing sessions there, but since I was working with very competent studio people, there was significant opportunity to explore the facility and ask questions of the EMI engineers. This was in 2008.

Abbey Road’s three studios opened in 1931. The largest room, Studio 1, was the largest purpose-built studio in the world – and it still is, 90 years later.

Studio 2 is smaller, but still quite large compared to most studios. This is where the Beatles and so many other successful groups and artists recorded their historic records. And it’s where the project I was working on took place.

In this episode, I describe the facilities, the neighborhood, and what mics and equipment we used. I cover some of the history of the studio complex. And I provide my personal impressions of working there.

On my podcast web site, dougfearn.com, I have posted some of the photos that I took while there.

As always, thanks for your comments, questions, and suggestions. I appreciate every one of them. You can reach me at dwfearn@dwfearn.com

Please tell your friends and colleagues about this podcast. The subscriber list grows daily, and your ratings and reviews help me to reach as many people as possible in my quest to help improve the sound of all of our recordings.

#38   Minimalist Mic’ing for Better Sound         February 15, 2021

Using as few mics as possible on a recording session often leads to better sound for the project. In this episode, I describe how I went from one mic, to many mics, and back to one mic, over the course of my career.

Some examples are truly one stereo mic for an entire song recording, while others use two or three mics, depending on the circumstances.

There are high-res audio clips available in the EXTRAS tab, above, where you can listen to some of the recordings discussed, plus links to videos that show the actual sessions.

In one example, a song with multiple instruments was recorded live in the studio, but with a single stereo mic, and with a typical multi-mic approach. Both have their place, and you can decide which you prefer. Both recordings are from the same take, so they are directly comparable.

This approach to recording is not for everyone, nor for every project, but understanding the principles may give you a useful tool.

Single-mic recording eliminates the phase differences that can hurt the sound of a recording. And another benefit is that you might just get a more interesting performance from the musicians, since everyone is playing together at once, in the same room. No headphones needed.

Sometimes a hybrid approach works, too, combining the minimalist mic’ing with standard mic’ing techniques.

Got an idea that would make a good podcast episode? Or a question that I might be able to answer? Please send your thoughts to dwfearn@dwfearn.com

#39   Manufacturing Pro Audio Equipment                February 27, 2021

Manufacturing pro audio equipment was never really part of my plan, but it has become one of the most gratifying aspects of my career in music recording.

It wasn’t until around 2011 when a documentary video about me was made that I realized how all the pieces came together, resulting in my career in recording, and in designing products for the studio. In retrospect, it seems totally logical.

In this episode, I talk about some of those influences, including my early experience as a teenage business owner. I explain how my desire to improve the quality of my recordings led me to the design of the VT-1, the single-channel vacuum tube mic preamp that became the first D.W. Fearn product.

I talk about how I made the transition from the pre-internet days of mailing lists and magazine ads to my first company web site. I had to learn the details of manufacturing, shipping internationally, and setting up dealers to sell my products.

And, of course there were the details of design, beyond the circuit and into the esthetics of gear and user ergonomics.

I hope you will enjoy hearing about my journey. And if you are thinking about starting a company, perhaps my story will be helpful to you.

Your email is valuable to me, so keep it coming.    dwfearn@dwfearn.com

And as I approach a full year of doing this podcast, I want to ask your help in building the audience. Frankly, I’m happy to do this even if only a few people benefit from it. But producing this podcast takes up about half my working hours, so for me to feel motivated to keep going, I’d like to find more subscribers. If you would share your enthusiasm for this podcast with your social media contacts, or your real-world colleagues, I would appreciate it. Thanks.

Technical details for this episode: I wanted to get a  better understanding of the RF condenser microphone sound, so I used a newly-acquired Sennheiser MKH8050 Hypercardiod mic. That went into a D.W. Fearn VT-2 mic preamp, VT-4 Equalizer, and VT-7 Compressor. The mic is about 24 inches away, and off axis, since it is easily popped. No pop filter was used. The eq was set for 4dB of shelving roll-off at 40Hz, and 2dB of shelving high-cut at 10kHz. I found that I needed the high cut to reduce the high-end boost inherent in condenser microphones. The low cut compensates for the proximity effect of most directional miscs. The audio went through a Merging Technologies Hapi converter and was recorded using Pyramix DAW at 24-bit, 96kHz sample rate. Of course, the podcast format is a 96kb/s MP3, but the higher resolution capture results in a better translation to the MP3 format.

#40   Inside the Podcast                              March 6, 2021

As my podcast approaches its one-year anniversary, I look back on what new skills I have had to learn, and share the podcast creation process with you. It’s not a how-to on podcasting, but it might give you some insight. My approach is not for everyone, or maybe not for anyone else but me. My process evolved to satisfy myself and overcome my deficiencies in this area.

Early in life, I found that people often asked me to explain things to them. I’ve been doing that ever since. Knowledge is something you can give away, but keep for yourself.

Teaching, usually informally, has always been a part of my life. And around 2010 I decided to make some videos for YouTube that explained my products. I always wanted to provide additional background information for the viewer, beyond promoting my products. After I made videos for all the products, I branched out into other areas of recording that I thought might be useful to viewers.

But the videos took a lot of time to make, and I realized that for many topics, most of the information was in the narration. After some false starts, I decided in March 2020 that the pandemic restrictions made it the perfect time to launch the “My Take On Music Recording” podcast.

I had a lot to learn, and I thought back on influential people in my life who were excellent at sharing knowledge.

In this episode, I also go into technical details on the equipment I use and the process that has evolved over the past year to make the podcast as good as I can make. I hope you find it useful, especially if you want to start your own podcast, or listen to it just as an interesting adventure.

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.