Letters to Mix

LOOK, THEY LIKE IT WHEN I BLEED Good God, Stephen! I just read Fast Lane and ran downstairs immediately to send this e-mail. After everything in the recent
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LOOK, THEY LIKE IT WHEN I BLEED Good God, Stephen! I just read Fast Lane and ran downstairs immediately to send this e-mail. After everything in the recent


Good God, Stephen! I just read “Fast Lane” and randownstairs immediately to send this e-mail. After everything in therecent past (trees, cats, ex-wives, cancer, etc.), now this?! I amstunned. God must have something very special for you to do with therest of your life, because He surely wouldn't have put you through allof this to snuff you. In many ways, I can relate to your hospitalexperiences, but not completely. When I was shot at a gig in Tulsa backin 1972, I spent a fun time in intensive care and on my back for eightweeks at St. Francis. Fortunately for me, I got better.

Our prayers are with you. If there is anything I can do, if you needsome place to get away for a while, whatever. You are truly aninspiration to many folks out here in the Hinterland. You've just aboutbeen there and done it all: Lived such an exciting lifestyle,motorcycles and music, invented new tools for musicians, been a CEO,lived at the top of the heap, fallen through the bottom floor, andstill you get up and with tongue firmly planted in cheek, youtell us all about it in an off-the-cuff way. How do you dothat?!

May you dust yourself off and shake the morphine monkey off yourback. May all of your trials and tribulations finally be over.May you have accrued [enough] karma to last the rest of your life. Mayyou find someone you can dictate to. You certainly deserve it. Don'tbother answering this: Just get back up and keep slugging!
Bob Ketchum
Cedar Crest Studio


I'm a 20-year-old student who is learning and discovering the craftof audio engineering more and more each day. I completely agree withwhat you said [in November's “Editor's Note”], even thoughI have minimal experience with audio recording and pretty much walkedinto an environment where it's all “point and shoot” andpolish it up with plug-ins.

Now, anyone with a decent audio interface can record. I see it everyday at school: Kids walk in thinking that they are going to make“beats,” only to find out that the next class will be on EQcurve. Hearing them say, “What do we need to know thisfor?” makes me laugh and want to respond, “How do you thinkthey got that nice bass sound in that last 50 Cent record?” Theydon't realize that they aren't just listening to notes, but that therelationship and contrast between that deep bass and the snare drum hitis what is making them move. They finally got it when the teacher did ademonstration for us and did a short mix on a song that they all justlaughed at in the beginning. But while he was mixing it, you could seethe look on their faces [change]. Then we all tried [the technique] andreally saw how much you need to know about sound.

I fell in love with audio because there are no rules, justguidelines, and they can be approached in many directions. We can keepon learning from them. It's funny, when I first got into this, I wasjust recording my band, picking up an audio magazine here and there,reading it and not having any idea what those big words meant. Nowafter doing it, I can pick up those old issues and relearn what I readbefore.


I just read your article “Audio: No ExperienceNecessary” and I wanted to let you know that I know what you'retalking about. I am in high school right now, and while I don't knowmuch about electronics and analog recording, I want to learn. I haveput together a small home studio with a MOTU 828 card, an MX2442 board,various AKG mics, an Oktava condenser and my old 600MHz computer. Iwant to learn the intricacies of analog recording, but that's a hugeinvestment for anyone, let alone a high school student.

It's good to know that good music can be recorded for a few hundreddollars using one microphone, a computer interface and some freesoftware. But what is upsetting is that people don't have the respectfor the engineers. When I tell people I want to go into audioengineering, a lot of people don't have any idea what they do besides“work in a recording studio.” I [thought] I'd let you knowthat someone does respect what you and many other “realengineers” are actually doing.
Ricky Chilcott


Talk about hitting a nail on the head [November's “Editor'sNote”]. I have another 17 years on you and have been in the audiobusiness since high school. I got my training on amplifiers that hadthose big glass bottles that got real hot.

At our post-production house for advertising agencies, we have anintern program for students studying recording. We are not a musicrecording facility and that is thoroughly explained to prospectiveinterns. Most want to gain production experience in a professionalenvironment. I'm truly amazed at their lack of knowledge in thetechnical aspects of what we do. Not one of them in the past five yearshad even a basic understanding of gain structure in a recording chain.I would get questions like, “Why is it so distorted?” whenthe channel fader would be at -40 dB and the preamp in the high gainposition with the overload LED lighting the control room in a brightred glow.

I was taught professional recording by a feisty old-schoolcurmudgeon in the '60s at Audio Recording in Cleveland. We had a½-inch 3-track Ampex (very state-of-the-art) and the ability tomultitrack. So it was an either “you got it or you didn't”type of recording. Vlad Maleckar was the owner and resident taskmasterabout the technical aspects of recording that continue to count today.With analog tape recording, we were never allowed to record anuncompressed voice track hotter than -3 dB or we would “grungeup” (Vlad's description) the second and third harmonics thatcontributed so much to the overall voice quality. Vlad taught me how toedit tape without marking it with a grease pencil. It saved a lot oftime, let alone the fact that you were not poking the playback headconstantly. Until the advent of DAWs, clients would watch me edittrying to figure out how I did it.

Jim Cogan's articles about Bill Putnam have been wonderful reading;Cogan's writing and having had the opportunity to watch Bill work madethe articles all the more interesting.

Your editorial is a wonderful reminder that a little technicaldirection can go a long way to helping people make better-soundingrecordings. The term “fix it in the mix” only goes sofar.
Mike King
Audio Recording Unlimited

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