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THE MUSICIAN ’S RESO URCE

JUNE/JULY ‘19 FREE

agesandages How Studio Experimentation Helped Craft The Best Indie Record of The Year

How to Shop For Band Insurance

The Low Down on Split Sheets

Leverage YouTube to Boost Relevancy

Quick Tips for More Effective Mixes


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TABLE OF CONTENTS

VOLUME 29, ISSUE 3

TABLE OF

CONTENTS

cover story

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ALAN HERTZ by Taylor Northern

DEPARTMENTS 4. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 5. Dear Indie Musicians… 9. How to Maximize YouTube for Your Band 10. The 411 on Split Sheets 12. How to Shop for Entertainer’s Insurance 26. GEAR TEST: Galaxy Audio AS-1400 Wireless System 28. A Beginner’s Guide to Effective Mixes 30. GEAR REVIEWS: Akai, IK Multimedia, Taylor Guitars and more… 48. MY FAVORITE AXE: Jack Gray

AGES AND AGES by byWilhelmina Taylor Northern Hayward

22

WYO by Benjamin Jason Peterson Ricci

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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

LETTER

from the editor

Howdy, y’all. The day has finally come. We are gathered here to mourn the loss of our beloved (is that the right word? doesn’t feel right…) iTunes, the bloated and often-frustrating desktop software that once ruled our digital landscapes. Now relegated to the Zune-infested trash pile of tech history, Apple has rather unceremoniously ditched the aging program in an effort to have its desktop offerings more closely align with its iOS counterparts. Which makes sense. It never really felt intuitive to have podcasts in a music app, or to rent episodes of The Office in the same program where you hosted your early-2000’s mp3 library. Or, for that matter, to open up your music player in order to activate a new cell phone. So, in that regard, as the world moves to a streaming model and further away from a collector’s mentality, morphing iTunes into a more generic Apple Music app on the desktop is a logical maneuver. And one that frees up all those ancillary functions stuffed into iTunes over the years to finally be shifted to more appropriate apps and spaces. Still, there are those of us old enough to have a certain amount of nostalgia for the old iTunes icon, bouncing along in the dock all these years. For many, it was the first place we organized our legal (and sometimes not) digital music libraries. The first place we ever ripped CDs, burned CD-R mixes for friends, and even bought our first legitimate music downloads (awful early-DRM warts and all). For me, personally, having witnessed the birth of downloading and the death of the CD in my formative college years, the end of iTunes is somewhat bittersweet. For years, it seemed poised to usher in a brand-new age of music ownership and acquisition, which was quickly shoved aside for newer, flashier streaming options, that the old curmudgeon in me is still slow to acknowledge are much more convenient and easier to use.

Volume 29, Issue 3 PO BOX 348 Somerville, MA 02143 CONTACT Phone: 617-627-9200 Fax: 617-627-9930 PUBLISHER William House Phone: 617-627-9919 bill@performermag.com EDITOR Benjamin Ricci ben@performermag.com DESIGN & ART DIRECTION Cristian Iancu EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Bob Dobalina editorial@performermag.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Akshay RH, Benjamin Ricci, Chris Devine, Jack Gray, Josh Carlyle, Laurie LaCrossWright, Michael St. James, Taylor Northern, Wilhelmina Hayward CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Joe Bowden, Monika Sed, Dillon Pena ADVERTISING SALES William House Phone: 617-627-9919 bill@performermag.com © 2019 by Performer Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any method whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher. The magazine accepts no responsibility for unsolicited recordings, manuscripts, artwork or photographs and will not return such materials unless requested and accompanied by a SASE. Annual Subscription Rate is $30 in the U.S.; $45 outside the U.S.

Still, my inner hoarder enjoys scrolling through the thousands of songs ripped from my CD collection over the years, meticulously editing metadata and correcting the often-wrong artwork iTunes decided to supply. I guess some things will just never change… So farewell, iTunes. You had a good run, but it’s time to gracefully ride out into the sunset. Say hi to our old friends SoundJam when you get here you’re going…

Benjamin Ricci ABOUT US / Performer Magazine, a nationally distributed musician’s trade publication, focuses on independent musicians, those unsigned and on small labels, and their success in a DIY environment. We’re dedicated to promoting lesser-known talent and being the first to introduce you to artists you should know about. MUSIC SUBMISSIONS / We listen to everything that comes into the office. We prefer physical CDs, cassettes and vinyl over downloads. If you do not have a physical copy, send download links to editorial@performermag.com. No attachments, please. Send CDs to: Performer Magazine, Attn: Reviews, PO BOX 348, Somerville, MA 02143 CORRECTIONS / Did we make a heinous blunder, factual error or just spell your name wrong? Contact editorial@ performermag.com and let us know, cuz we’re big enough to say, “Baby, I was wrong.” EDITORIAL SUBMISSIONS / In the words of our esteemed forefathers at CREEM: “NOBODY WHO WRITES FOR THIS RAG’S GOT ANYTHING YOU AIN’T GOT, at least in the way of credentials. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be sending us your stuff: reviews, features, photos, recording tips, DIY advice or whatever else you have in mind that might be interesting to our readers: independent and DIY musicians. Who else do ya know who’ll publish you? We really will...ask any of our dozens of satisfied customers. Just bop it along to us to editorial@performermag.com and see what comes back your way. If you have eyes to be in print, this just might be the place. Whaddya got to lose? Whaddya got?”

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"Almost Vintage Guitar" by xfile001 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Dear Indie Musician, You’re Not Going to Make It Well, there is ONE secret…

PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2019 5


MUSIC BUSINESS

I

t’s harsh, it’s brutal, but it’s also true. As an independent musician, you’re not going to “make it.” What do I mean by “make it?” Like, playing arenas, living in a mansion, and owning your own plane? Nope, those days are long gone, even for many signed artists. I mean, can you “make it” by simply running a band, recording albums, touring, paying your rent, maybe buying a house, having a kid, all while earning money through artist music? No, it’s over. What’s worse is that it’s largely not by accident. The music industry has changed so drastically in the last five years that it is now stacked against you. I do not want to report this, but someone has to. We’re being inundated by tech that wants to demolish us in the name of progress. Everyone is investing in everything BUT the actual music. Spotify drops $300 million, not on an indie label program or rate increases, nope, but podcasts. AI music creation. Seriously, is this helping you create emotional and meaningful songs, or is it actually competing with you to create atmospheric tracks (600 in one click) to get playlisted or signed by Warner? It’s a cool trick, and it’s getting better. But, it’s not helping your career. PledgeMusic has allegedly ripped off bands and fans, all in the name of debt vehicles and VC clawbacks. And in doing so, slashed the trust of fans for direct funding. Hell, touring has become a mirror of the 1% struggle. The forthcoming book, Rockonomics, by Alan Krueger, is going to blow your mind with stats and business-case models of how the middle class music industry is damn near dead. Spotify, Amazon, Google, and Pandora are all actively fighting against a miniscule rate increase for songwriters/publishers. Read that again, the very people you pay a subscription to, and place your music on, is actively fighting against you as a business partner, and they always will, or they will abandon you. It’s literally part of their business plan to make the input cost smaller.   Bless those Blockchain people. Sorry, but it just hasn’t happened yet. There are well over a dozen blockchain music platforms (many of which I have written about here) with their own crypto and big promises of pay and smart contracts. Yet, no one is making a living at it. Instead, they all want you, the indie musician, the bolster their business model by keeping their coins in the ecosystem, and bringing fans in to their closed platform. Funny, they make real money in actual dollars. So, if you made it this far, you’re a real one. You’re in this to create, to hustle, to scratch and

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fight. You won’t be stopped, and that’s the only way to survive today. Secret: There is a way to “make it” today. But it’s hard, it just won’t look like you think it would, might be a condo instead of a mansion. It’s not for everyone, and even if you do all the things I outline, there are no guarantees. It’s going to take two years to see the results, but you’re in this for the long haul. I’ll deal with touring strategies, social media, and fan building in another article. This is about your recorded music strategy. In the digital world, it’s all about footprint. You have to release music for fans, but also for algorithms. You have to expand beyond your artist music podcasts, videos, covers, and instrumentals. You have to constantly be working on the next fresh music so that licensors know they can build a relationship with you. With all of that said, here is what you need to do: * Look, it still starts with great music. What does that mean? No matter the genre: hooks, a memorable chorus, interesting lyrics, quality playing. Also, I can’t stress this enough, excellently mixed and mastered tracks. If it doesn’t sound as good as anything on the market, you are not trying hard enough. If you aren’t pro-level technically yet, find a producer, find a mixer, build a relationship, and pay them well. * You must affiliate with a PRO, you must properly register all of your songs correctly based on your split sheets and have a publishing entity. The long tail of royalties will eventually start to generate some passive income, and if you get a good placement, it will snowball. * You must become a distributor. I recommend Distrokid, but any of them will do. ISRC codes, UPC, quick platform uploads.

* If you play live, record every single show. More releasable content. * Release music for algorithms and fans. Yes, do your big album or EP. But in the meantime, you must release new music every 3-4 months. It could be a single, instrumental, fun cover, joke song, live version, experimental, or even a full EP, but every 3-4 months have something new. Even if you create another “Artist Profile.” This will trigger the coveted “new music” weighting, upstream you for playlisting. There is literally no better strategy than this for music licensing and taking advantage of algorithmic digital streaming. * For every song, you must have three separate finals: a full mix, instrumental, and a cappella. Release a video on YouTube of the song for Content ID. It can be an artist video, or an album cover, but make it available on the largest music service in the world. * Work with a licensing agent. If not, find a microlicensing site like Songtradr and start there. Then, do you research and represent your catalog (and new releases) to agencies. Build those relationships.   * Get a Bandcamp site to maintain a direct way to offer downloads and previews. * Offer physical on a special basis. Vinyl, cassette, CDs, but be artistic in how your present them, and make them valuable. Physical still sells. * Create content to use your music. Cat videos, music lessons, podcasts, cartoons, DIY videos, audiobooks. Ok, that’s a start. Part two later this year. I can’t wait to hear all of your fresh music! ABOUT THE AUTHOR Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.


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MUSIC BUSINESS

How to Use YouTube to Promote Your Band

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ouTube can be a powerful tool for promotion. But how do you move from gradually increasing the number of your subscribers and views to attracting a wider audience? That’s what we’ll talk about today. PROMOTE THE CHANNEL TO GET NEW SUBSCRIBERS WITH THE HELP OF INFLUENCERS This is one of those strategies that will provide you with thousands of views, even if you have only one subscriber. How is this possible, you may ask? Instead of adding new videos or songs to your channel, add them to someone else’s! It is desirable that they have at least a thousand real subscribers and fit your musical direction (if you have an indie rock band, the channel of your partner should be focused on indie rock, too). Now, many will ask: why would anyone be interested in such a proposal to post my video? There is a simple reason for this - most often, the channel owners are not musicians themselves and don’t have a band of their own. They may be looking for new music to share with their audience if they’re interested in being seen as a key social influencer. Identify these people before they get too big and make connections now. As a rule, they can be divided into two categories: * Fans and music lovers * Content creators/journalists and video bloggers

Josh Carlyle Posting your video on an emerging influencer’s channel will get you in front of an already established (or quickly establishing) audience, and the owner will get fresh content to curate. Again, pay attention to the number of subscribers. Of course, you would like to place a clip on a channel with several thousand subscribers, but if the video is not ready yet, and there is only a lyric video or song with static artwork, a more modest option will do. In the end, any channel with a greater number of subscribers than yours is better than nothing. And by identifying future influencers, you can get in good on the ground floor. MAKE COVERS AND GET NEW FANS The cover is another great way to build a large subscriber base quickly. When a superstar releases another track, a certain advertising budget is allocated for it, and a marketing plan is drawn up. So, having heard a new hit on the radio or TV, some of the fans will start searching for it on YouTube. Capitalize on this and create your own version for YouTube as quickly as possible after the original single drops; there is a very real chance that your video will appear in the search results. And, as soon as the fans watch the official video, some of them will go on and look for other options, or even better, your video maybe start to appear as a recommendation if it gains traction. If they like your version and they subscribe to the channel - you have reached the goal.

YOUTUBE PROMOTION WITH THE HELP OF TAGS The strategies outlined above are focused on getting new subscribers, and this advice aims at ensuring that those who already remember your name can find you, view your videos and make sure that there are other videos from your channels in the block on the right (“related videos”). One way to increase the chances of this happening is to use multiple tags. For example, suppose your stage name is Doreen Greeney. All that’s left for you is to add this name to the tags and use several other spellings. It will look like this: Doreen greeney DoreenGreeney DoreenGreeney.com This will help make your videos more relevant to each other, and increase the chances that they will be displayed in a block of similar videos instead of someone else’s recordings (which, in essence, distracts the user from what you are offering). You should not expect that these random tags will help others to find you in the search, but this will significantly increase the chance that the right block will be filled with the necessary material. Remember - YouTube is not the only option. The quick tips above are just some of the ways you can easily leverage the YouTube juggernaut. PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2019 9


MUSIC BUSINESS

Split Sheets or It Didn’t Happen Or Split Sheets Are the New Condoms (yay, click-bait in print!)

S

cenario: You come to rehearsal with a new guitar part and some lyrics for a song, but you don’t quite have the chorus worked out yet. You play it for the band, the bass player adds her thing, the drummer his, and the other guitarist writes a cool little counter-melody for the intro. Then, the bass player says, “Ooh, what if we went to G here in the chorus instead of B-flat?” And you agree. Then the chorus comes to you, and you jot down the words in your notebook and start to sing them. Then, your manager, mucking around on his iPad, says from the other side of the room, “You should say, ‘I thought I was lost forever again’ instead of ‘I thought I was lost again, forever’.” Months later, the band hits the studio to record the tune and the producer/mixer thinks the chorus should go to E-flat instead of G, and also just sing “lost forever again”

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four times, instead of the whole line. Now, you need to register the song with your PRO and copyright.gov; plus, your sister knows a guy who works for a cable channel that wants to license the song. So, when the percentages dropdown comes up in registration, what do you put in there? Who owns the song? We can argue about the “Ringo Rule,” where bass and drum lines are not part of a copyrightable composition (they aren’t). Or, we could try to piece together all the contributions: Would the intro hit without that counter-melody, is that worth 3%? Did the manager write the chorus line? Or, did the producer co-write the chorus by changing the line and the progression? If so, how much ownership should you give up for three words, even though they were still the words you wrote, but just trimmed?

Again, who owns the song? I don’t know. Neither do you. So, how do you figure it out? The answer is a Split Sheet. This is simply a written agreement outlining the percentages of song authorship and the people they are assigned to; it is filled out by all the creatives in the room when writing/producing a song. It does not need to be reviewed by a lawyer, or notarized. It just needs the name of the song, date finished, state, contributors’ names, assigned percentages, PRO info, publisher info, any info on samples used, contact info, and be signed/dated. Sounds simple, so simple that almost every amateur “forgets” to do it. It’s what determines the PRO registration and makes licensing people


MUSIC BUSINESS

photo by Eliecer Gallegos

crazy. It’s what determines who gets what (pub/ sync side) if the song is licensed. It determines who can leverage the copyright for a loan. It’s what pros do. You want a career? This is your TPS Report. Split sheets seem to be viewed like condoms were in the eighties. “It ruins the vibe, man.” “Let’s just see where this goes, I trust you.” Bullshit. Take responsibility for you AND your partners. Much like condoms, the perfect time for them is NOT AFTER THE ACT - it’s right now, when you’re doing the deed! Also, just like condoms, it’s kinda hot that you want to protect everyone’s safety and rights with a split sheet, and it’s even hotter that you had one with you, fully expecting to get lucky tonight! As to the scenario above, it’s literally up to you. That’s the answer. There is no one way to do it. All the more reason for a split sheet.

If you think this band should own every song equally, then list all the members with equal percentages. If you think you wrote the song and they just added to it for the recording and live playing (remember, a composition is not this current band’s recording of it), then make sure everyone knows you get full 100% writer ownership. If the producer often takes 5% because they change structure, fine. If the beats are 33%, fine. No matter what you decide, it’s important to make sure that a) you fill out a split sheet when a song is finished being written and/or recorded, and b) everyone in the room knows that’s what’s going on, agrees, and signs for their share.

Here is one to print out: https://www. scribd.com /doc/13375172/SongwriterSplit-Sheet Songtrust also has an excellent one: https:// www.songtrust.com /hubfs /Songtrust_ SplitSheet.pdf

Good news! There are tons of options for split sheets. Seriously, you can Google it and get some good samples. Below are some templates to get your started.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.

Here’s a cool new one, the best if you have iPhone/iPad: “Splits” in the App Store http:// splits.createmusicgroup.com/ For cloud-based and real-time, a great resource is: songsplits.com Here’s to gettin’ lucky tonight.

PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2019 11


MUSIC BUSINESS

HOW TO SHOP ENTERTAINER

W

e know a lot of you might be headed out on a spring or summer tour soon, and you’ve already gone through the checklist. Van’s in working order? Check. All the gear fits? Check. We’ve got hotels/accommodations booked? Done and done. Forgetting something? If you’re performing live, we know that insurance might not be at the top of your list, but it could be one of the smartest things you check off before you hit the open road. If you want to learn more, just reach for the good old search bar at the top of this page and plug in “insurance” for a number of helpful articles. But let’s say you’ve done all your homework already and have decided liability insurance is a good idea (or even required) for some of the live events you’re playing. What are some of the things to keep in mind when shopping for entertainment insurance? Let’s explore. FINANCIAL STABILITY OF PROVIDER When you’re looking over options for providers, always be sure to ask about the carrier’s financial stability. This is huge – if they’re not financially reliable, what good will they be in the event that a claim needs to be dealt with? There are independent rating companies like A.M. Best that are a safe choice when you’re doing research. Look for carriers with A or better ratings for the best peace of mind. QUICK TIP FOR AVOIDING EXTRA COSTS Along with ratings, make sure the provider you’re looking at is admitted (or licensed). This is definitely preferred because if they’re nonadmitted (you may also hear the term surplus lines) they may require you to pay extra taxes or fees. And who wants that?

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CUSTOMER RATINGS & LONGEVITY You’ve considered the rating of the carrier and also their admitted status, the next step would be to investigate their company history and also any testimonials (unpaid) or customer ratings that are publicly available. If the company you’re investigating is dodgy with the details, you may want to explore other options. Let’s not discount experience, either. Companies familiar with the unique risks that come along with live bands will be able to more accurately judge your risks and provide more tailored quotes, and will be in a better position to better handle the types of claims that may arise in your industry. You may also want to look for convenient services such as the ability to apply and purchase coverage online, as opposed to completing a paper application that must be mailed and approved before coverage is in force. WHAT KIND AND HOW MUCH This wouldn’t be much of a shopping guide if we didn’t answer these basic questions. So, the first thing you’d be looking at is general liability insurance for live events. This is what we’re dealing with here (see our other articles on instrument-specific insurance) in case someone is injured or property is damaged. Now that you know what to buy, how much is enough? Well, as an example, you might want to go with a policy that has a $2 million occurrence limit with a $5 million aggregate limit. What this means is that your limit for an individual incident is $2 million, but your total limit would be $5 million for all the incidents that take place while the policy is in effect. That might sound like a super-high amount, but bodily injury (or, in the absolute worst case scenarios, even death) are real possibilities and medical expenses can be cripplingly high (especially if you’re on the hook). Keep in mind, too, that some event organizers and venues might mandate minimum limits for live acts, so before you buy coverage be sure to look over your performance contracts for limits or coverage requirements. If you have a booking

agent and/or tour manager, they should be aware of all insurance requirements for your upcoming dates well in advance of your arrival. EXCLUSIONS We’ve already covered this in-depth (read


MUSIC BUSINESS

P FOR ER INSURANCE Benjamin Ricci

photo by Yoppy

that article here), but you should know before you buy a policy what sorts of things are excluded from typical liability coverage policies. We won’t rehash all those points here (again, read the full article for complete details), but it is definitely something to keep in mind when it’s time to shop around.

CONCLUSION You’ve heard us repeat it a million times, but to be sure, always check over your policy and ask your provider to answer any questions you may have. They have the answers, trust us. The best policy (no pun intended) is consult a professional

whenever you’re in doubt. Stay safe out there and look for more tips in the months ahead. And in the meantime, check out www. kandkinsurance.com – you may qualify to get a quote or even purchase insurance online. PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2019 13


SPOTLIGHT 14 JUNE/JULY 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE


SPOTLIGHT

ALAN HERTZ Fusion Whiz Gives Young Artists the Lowdown on the Business Taylor Northern

A

lan Hertz is one of the last disciples of jazz fusion - his drumming is similar to other great drum masters such as Billy Cobham and Tony Williams in that he plays with a complex and distinct style, erupting like a volcano when onstage. His style blurs across genres and rises above any supposed limitations of a single formula. As a member of jam supergroup Garaj Mahal, he helped to create a creative and enticing blend of funk and jazz, moreover the band’s improvisational talents rivaled that of other great fusion acts such as Mahavishnu Orchestra and Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis. In more recent years, Alan Hertz’s output has slowed down, but he’s still collaborating with major session musicians in the studio and on the stage. I had a chance to speak with him recently and talk about his upcoming projects -- here’s what he had to say. When did you first start playing drums? I started playing drums when I was two. My family was musical and there were all kinds of drums around, so as a toddler I would just go

courtesy of the artist

around banging on things. My pops got me a snare drum and cymbal for my second birthday. My dad was a singer/songwriter, he played country/ oldies music. Growing up, who were some of your major influences? Did you have any music teachers in your neighborhood or local community? I always had a job – I always played with my dad growing up, so obviously my father. I would gig with him as a kid and he actually paid me for the gigs. When I made it into high school I got a job at the local music store in Sepastobol, CA called Zone Music. That’s where I met a guy named Tom Hayashi who got me into all the awesome drummers who had instructional tapes - guys like Dave Weckl, Terry Bozzio, Steve Gadd, Jack DeJohnette, Tony Williams. That guy Tom turned me onto jazz and that kind of alternative music. He also introduced me to Will Kennedy from the Yellowjackets when I was 15. Later on, I moved to LA at age 18 and Will became my teacher. I saved up some money and found a rehearsals space and we would practice there, he ended being my mentor for a good number of years.

Let’s talk a bit about your previous projects. You started out with Steve Kimock and Bobby Vega in the band KVHW. KVHW was a short lived project, but quickly became popular in the jam and college scene. How did that band originally come about? I had been living in Los Angeles and hadn’t been making a living. I had to move back home into my parents’ house and ended up working at Zone Music again. So, Bobby Vega saw me at Zone Music and he hits me up and we started playing with Ray White. Ray also knew Steve Kimock and Steve and Bobby Vega were friends with Jerry Garcia - Garcia was a big fan of their playing, especially Steve. So, we started a band and climbed up the ranks quick because we knew Jerry Garcia plus Bobby had done session work for people like Etta James and Sly Stone. We got popular there for a second and then some political things happened and the band kinda dismantled, but who knows there still may be a reunion gig, we’re all still alive (laughs). After KVHW disbanded, you joined Garaj Mahal, another supergroup jam band. I was first exposed to your drum virtuoso skills via Garaj. You guys had nine amazing PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2019 15


SPOTLIGHT

releases on Harmonized Records and then went on hiatus. What happened with that band? How did everything start? My friend was a big entertainment lawyer/ manager and he worked with an amazing guitar player out of Chicago who had played with Sting and Joe Zawinul Syndicate – it was Fareed Haque. He suggested that I jam with Fareed and possibly do a project, I knew who Fareed was, said yeah and reached out to the bassist Kai Eckhardt. At first, we had a different keyboard player, but Eric Levy came into the picture later because he was Fareed Haque’s music student. But when Eric joined that was a match made in heaven. We decided to make the investment and bought the white van to travel the States in. I remember we

L.A in that there are more bands and grouporiented projects in Bay; Los Angeles is more for session musicians. There are so many musicians in LA who are on the level, you can throw a rock and hit ten really great drummers from your front door. It’s a sessions musician’s town. Do you feel it’s easier to promote things at a grassroots level in NorCal as opposed to Los Angeles? I think now with social media, with GoPros and everything streaming, location doesn’t matter as much. You just have to be relentless and really good. There are so many people promoting themselves online. I don’t want to come across snide and call people mediocre, but there is a lot of

“Get your product right and make it on a truly amazing level first before promoting anything.” were in Colorado and were like let’s stop renting vans and buy a van; it went from there. But in terms of why I eventually left Garaj Mahal, I was getting some international gigs with Scott Henderson. I was enjoying traveling and having fun on those gigs, but at that same time Garaj Mahal needed to tour and had lined up gigs so they could keep working and make money. Sean Rickman filled in on drums and became a member after that. You did mix and engineering work on all Garaj Mahal releases, as well. When did you first start doing audio engineering? I’ve always been intrigued with audio engineering. I kind of use that as a stepping stone to hone my overall musical craft. I’ve engineered a lot of records...just this month I’ve done four or five records. Either tracking the album, playing on it or both -- I recently did Scott Henderson’s new album. I played on Michael Landau’s album from 2018 and we may work on another one in the future. You lived in in the Bay Area for a long time and recently moved to Los Angeles. How is the Bay Area different from SoCal? There’s a difference between Bay Area and 16 JUNE/JULY 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

mediocrity out there. But it’s harder to hold down someone who is truly talented and empowered you can live in a small town and make an amazing video that goes viral and reaches people in Los Angeles or New York. Get your product right and make it on a truly amazing level first before promoting anything. You recently did some engineer work on the band Styx’s latest album. What’s your connection to that band? My friend Will Evankovich produced the album and I had already worked with Tommy Shaw on the album The Great Divide -- that was a great bluegrass album and featured Allison Krauss and Dwight Yoakam on a few tracks. We recorded that record in Nashville and did it ‘70s style on 2-inch tape with a multi-track analog tape recorder. So, they liked how that turned out and my friend Will called and invited me to do the Styx record. What kind of drum kit are you using these days? I am a vintage instrument and recording gear fan. I have old sixties Grestch and Ludwig drums, sixties Fibes acrylic drums. I have a black sixties Fibes drum kit like Billy Cobham’s, but his is clear. Basically, I have multiple vintage Gretsch

and Ludwig kits that I love. I love all the cymbals too, no bias there. What about recording gear? I like the same old stuff everybody likes... Neumann mikes, Neve microphone preamps, the Urei 1176 compressor, multitrack analog tape machines. Let’s talking a bit about working as a professional within the music business. When you first became a working musician, did you have a mentor that taught you about the busines? I would say my dad - my dad was paying me to play music in his band so I figured out an early age, wow you can get paid to do this. So that was cool...Bobby Vega was a mentor too. Vega because he’s an incredibly honest person and isn’t afraid to talk about money and music. I think being open and transparent about it is the best way to be. A lot of people will tip toe around the money issue – in the past I’ve been taken advantage of through vaguely worded record contracts -- like in certain groups I was in, we basically signed away all our digital streaming royalties because we didn’t know the language. Do you have any advice for young musicians looking to get started in the music business? I don’t know if I can give advice or be part of that. Like Timothy Leary, I turned on, tuned in and dropped out. Friends who know me and my work will want to recruit me for their music projects. So, I guess I’d say to a young person is get known through word of mouth. I get work and pay my bills through word of mouth. Get out there and watch your favorite musicians in person and learn from them. Also, know when you’re truly ready to try and influence people. Don’t be mediocre just because you see someone else doing it and making quick money being mediocre; don’t replicate that - if you’re trying to get lucky that’s not very good odds. Any last words about your projects or other advice? In the sixties, there were roughly 3.3. billion, now there’s 7.5 billion; our population has more than doubled. Population is growing and doesn’t seem to be stopping. So, this also means your chances of not making it have also doubled. If you’re doing music for the right reasons and love to play, you’ll get it. But if you’re doing it for money, you’re setting yourself up for a letdown. If you can do it because you want to keep getting better and better, go for it, don’t get discouraged. The love for music is the main part of it. I still play every day and feel better about my day after playing.


The road to greatness is paved one gig at a time. Meet your new travel partner.

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SPOTLIGHT

WYO Cinematic Indie Band Finds Inspiration in Isolation

Benjamin Ricci

18 JUNE/JULY 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

Monika Sed


SPOTLIGHT PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2019 19


SPOTLIGHT

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e recently collaborated with the LA-via-Wyoming band WYO to produce and share some amazing behind-the-scenes videos as the band worked on their sophomore album, Changes, both in Los Angles and in Wyoming. That video series, as well as the exclusive streaming premiere of the album, can be found at performermag.com (big thanks to Elixir Strings for co-presenting the series and hooking

Can you tell us a little about where you started and how the band came together? I grew up in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I’m originally from San Diego, but moved out there with my family and spent elementary school out there. We moved back to San Diego later on, and I eventually became more involved in music in high school. Once college came around, I decided to go to film school, and I was incorporating music in all my projects there. Once I got out of film school in New York, I got work at a production

“I was more of a musical writer on the first two records. But now, I think it’s more about finding my voice.” up the band with a supply of guitar strings for the sessions). After the record was completed, we had an opportunity to chat with the band’s driving force, Andy Sorge, to talk about the group’s origins in film, the new record and the overall creative headspace of the band. 20 JUNE/JULY 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

company back in Jackson Hole. They were doing a lot of commercial work, and I was asked to do a lot of different tasks. But eventually I started doing music for a lot of their clientele. So, the first commercials I scored were these board shorts spots for Quicksilver. From there, I decided that


then we’d spend about a week straight recording. Meanwhile, as we were recording, we’re on the phone with Brad Wood, saying ‘Hey, these demos are coming along – will you be ready to work in a month?’ So, by the time we got to his studio again in Los Angeles, we had 11 or 12 songs that were already demo’d – but I was getting so caught up writing these lyrics. That was the toughest part for me. And I should have been more focused on the creative [stuff ], and I think knowing that now, I’ll approach the third record completely differently.

I ended up freelancing for a lot of different production companies and scored some documentaries. But in between projects, I began writing music for what would become WYO. It took years to home in on what I wanted to sound like. Eventually, we put a handful of songs together and went to approach Brad Wood [Liz Phair, Veruca Salt] to help produce it. So the film scoring thing wasn’t something that came out of film school, that was a direct result of your work with the production companies? Exactly. Everyone at the company knew I could write music, so they hired me to do that for some of their commercials. Once I got started writing music for film, I was like ‘This is really where my heart is.’ I was a little scared to pursue music younger in life – but the goal was always to start a band and play shows. So how did WYO originate in the midst of all this? It all started at the house [in Jackson Hole] between film projects. I wanted to write songs and sing – that kind of expression is something I find really therapeutic. It’s really fun to see if you can write something compelling. The band itself really came together in Los Angeles, after my musical partner Scott Gibson and I took some of the songs to Brad Wood. Before that, we had recorded with a lot of session players, and we had decided to move to LA after that [to work on that first record]. So that’s where the other members of the band first came into the picture, but that batch of songs were originally conceived by myself and Scott. So that leads us to the second record, Changes. Between Scott and I, we had demoed about 10 songs, and had brought the band out to record back in Wyoming. It’s really inspiring out there – as soon as you’re out there you feel really grounded. Between the mountains and the beautiful scenery, the inspiration just strikes immediately. We’ve had a family home out there since I was a kid. And so fortunately, my father’s kept it and we ended up moving a bunch of recording equipment into the house in my 20s -- so there’s a full-blown studio there that we can go to at any time and track drums, and everything else. The reason we go out there is to isolate ourselves, and sometimes we really don’t leave the house for weeks at a time (laughs). To find that creatively, you really have to be focused like that. Isolating ourselves out there

seems to do the job. What’s the songwriting process look like for the band now? Sometimes it varies. But most of the time, especially on Changes, it was more about coming up with a rhythm. What we really struggled with on the first album was having a lot of cinematic music, but they’re slower tempo numbers on that record. So that’s what changed a lot on the second album, really focusing on more up-tempo songs. To be honest, I have a beatmaker on my phone, and I can program a quick beat, find the right tempo, and write a song that matches that tempo and feeling first. Usually I’ll sit at the piano with that drum loop going, and we’ll try to write the first verse or a chorus. I’ll see if I can come up with a cool melody, and eventually once you have enough ideas the inspiration will strike. And it’s like figuring out a puzzle – sometimes you just have to step back and see it and it works. Like ‘Moonlight,’ I had it finished in about 15 minutes. Then there are songs like ‘Hot Lights’ – that song was a blend of two songs that eventually came together in the same key over a long period of time.

SPOTLIGHT

music was ultimately what I wanted to pursue the most.

What do you mean, exactly? How would you approach the next record differently? It’s funny, the second one just came out and you’re already thinking of how you’d work on the next one. I want to know, lyrically, what I want to say first. It’s more meaningful if you have a lyrical inspiration, I think. At the end of the day, you’re playing the song multiple times live, out and about, and you want those songs to mean something to you. And to others. I think I’m maturing into this place where I was more of a musical writer on the first two records. But now, I think it’s more about finding my voice. And what the story is going to be, or what’s going to be meaningful to me in the future.

Follow on Twitter: @wyotheband

Do you tend to write alone, or do you collaborate with Scott on that process? I tend to write a good portion of it on my own. But when I hit a wall, or if I think I have a good idea, I’ll approach him and ask him what he thinks. Then he’ll start implementing his ideas into it. So, it’s definitely a collaboration but I tend to get started on my own first, then ask people to join me as I think I have something worth working on. How was the recording process different the second time around? Once Scott and I got into demo mode, we’d put things into Pro Tools and feel it out initially. And from there, we’d chart the songs together and shortly after that the three other members of the band would show up. So we already had the charts written by the time they got there [to the studio]. We’d rehearse, maybe make some changes, and

WYO CHANGES STANDOUT TRACK: “MOONLIGHT”

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SPOTLIGHT 22 JUNE/JULY 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE


agesandages Joe Bowden

SPOTLIGHT

Portland Collective Takes Us Inside the Recording of Breathtaking New LP

Wilhelmina Hayward

PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2019 23


SPOTLIGHT

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o one can argue that passion for music is what drives the distinctive Portlandbased Ages and Ages. While holding down full-time jobs, the brains behind the operation, Tim Perry and Rob Oberdorfer would meet up twice a week with their drummer and co-producer Evan Railton, to create, experiment, and experience a form of catharsis in the wake of all that is happening in the world. Which, in turn, has led to the release of their highly-anticipated new album, Me You They We. We were able to catch up with Tim Perry and Rob Oberdorfer to talk about their upcoming record and their process which makes them uniquely, Ages and Ages. Well, let’s dive right in to how Ages and Ages got started... Portland is in many ways a Mecca for musicians -- how did your band get going here? Tim: We’d played in bands before and, like you said, there are a lot of musicians and artists here in Portland. And so, we had been doing it for a bit anyway and sort of knew each other as “people in the music scene” and we established a friendship, 24 JUNE/JULY 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

you know, prior to ever being in a band together. Then when the moment struck…it was like a big group of people that were going through their respective musical break ups that were looking for another serious relationship slash one-nightstand...depending on who you ask. Rob: Yeah, this is my rebound band [laughs]. Tim: Hah, yeah, this is the one we thought would only last a couple of weeks, but somehow we’re still plugging away. Coming from different bands, what does the collaborative process look like in regards to songwriting? Rob: Well, mostly, it’s Tim. Especially the early records. We’ve gotten a bit more collaborative with the last couple, especially in the production process. And because we used to be a seven, eight, or sometimes nine person band, you really have to have somebody leading the way or else it’ll just become a mess with too many cooks in the kitchen. Tim: It did start with a pure and concise vision and my role was almost more like a choir conductor or parts arranger. In the beginning, there was

thematically this vision, like a narrative or a back story. And the irony is that part of that story is that eventually everything is just going to go to shit and get exponentially more confusing and maybe lose direction. Over the course of time, in a way, that’s kind of what happened to us, not that everything went to shit necessarily. But it’s sort of like things became... less cut and dried. And as that started to happen, I think the real, nonrebound aspect of this relationship really started to coalesce and with that, more of a collaborative process, particularly with production. Rob’s talents in the world of production are super strong. A lot of my ideas are maybe a little more floaty, artistic, you know... like, I got these ideas and a vision over here on one side, and then he has a very complementary vision on the other side that enables all these parts to be tied together… Rob: Our drummer Evan, who joined us in promoting the last record, he was really involved in the whole production process this time, too. He’s a super even-keeled guy, so any time Tim and I had a different idea for something, he was like this really copacetic middle ground. I was going to ask, what kind of difficulties do you guys face when decisions aren’t so aligned, and how do you get back to ones that


Rob: Put it in Evan’s pocket, he has to deal with it. Tim: Yeah, yeah.. we call him separately and complain. But no, I think that whole thing, your question about when things to go awry and they become less clear, I think that ends up being just as much a part of any album and I don’t think we’re unique in that. It’s almost more important to harness those moments and that tension, as well... and those contradicting ideas because ultimately what it results in is a record that’s less homogeneous. It’s when that struggle is there that actually, in my opinion, forms a more interesting record... but it’s really easy to say after the fact. I think we’ve learned, for the most part, to be respectful at the end of the day. We all definitely respect each other’s tastes and background, even though sometimes we temporarily might not feel like it. It does get heated, you know, but it’s all good and I feel like we’ve always been… We definitely always come out on top. You mentioned that the vision has changed over time. How do you think your story has shifted, and what is the vision now for Ages and Ages? Rob: The first record was so much about this group of people that’s like, “screw all the haters, let’s just go and do our own thing and not care what other people think about it,” kind of vibe. And as that evolved into what we are now, like a smaller creative entity, it’s become more personal, I guess. I think Tim’s writing has gotten more introspective. Tim: I think Rob’s right… the newer stuff is definitely a lot more about personal experiences in the midst of our differences and in the midst of other individuals’ personal experiences, hence “Me You They We” is kind of all those things... What kind of statement, if any, is Ages and Ages making with this new album? Rob: As the music has gotten more introspective, at least in my mind, what this record is centered on is having a more mature, nuanced view of the world and your interaction with it...in the context of some super heavy shit going down, as we all know and see on the news every day. And not only just this polemic “and this is why we fight” kind of thing because that’s a little easy. But, like, how do we get our information, how do we process it, and how do we internalize what we should internalize, and how do we keep our distance when we need it for mental health? That’s kind of the conversation of the record to me. Do you feel that a part of this album was

essentially your way of processing what’s going on in the world through writing and creating? Tim: Well, I think when you’re in therapy a lot, you’re digging in and...you’re sort of pulling yourself apart and exposing and just talking essentially, and then you try to sort it all out. And that frankly, that’s usually what I think happens in the artistic process… It’s almost easier to see it when you’re on the outside looking in when you have some distance from it. I think the song title that captures it the most is “Needle and Thread,” because I feel like there’s a little bit of every song that essentially summarizes the bigger picture for this record for us and the “Needle and Thread” does that too because it basically sums up this question... this process by which we’re all here overlooking our surrounding environment and trying to figure out how to weave ourselves into it and where we belong. And even if we want to weave ourselves into it because some days we don’t, you know, we disengage and other days we are fueled by the idea that we can make a difference. And we hop back-and-forth between these polar opposite feelings sometimes. That, I feel like it’s a common thing that’s addressed from different angles in all the songs.

lives, you know? We can’t go to a studio for a month, but that also means we’re not going to miss our mortgage payment if we don’t put out our record in the next couple of months. So, we really got to think about what we wanted to say and why and how. And that just meant that we got to experiment and try different approaches, conceptually and with different equipment. And we didn’t get stressed because, you know, we weren’t watching the clock. But it’s also just fun; I love sound. And Tim’s passionate about sound, as well. We get to geek out and find things that excite us all and it’s satisfying as a band.

SPOTLIGHT

merge well together?

Tim: When I was a kid, I always thought that bands would go in to the studio and just already know everything they wanted to do, that every song was deliberate and every sound was deliberate, and it was as easy as just going in there and doing what everybody already knew existed or something. And what Rob’s saying is true; the fun part is almost like hearing a sound in your head and having no idea what makes that sound and then combining, you know, like a guitar mix with a keyboard mix with some fucked up pedal. And then putting the amp upstairs and the mic downstairs in the vent, you know what I mean? Like that kind of thing, and that’s super fun and exciting.

Let’s talk a bit more about the recording process for Ages and Ages. You mentioned that you entered recording and production a little differently on this album, how was this process different and what have you learned this time around? Tim: Well, I can say that in the past, we’ve... dabbled in studios, at the very least, if not completely immersed ourselves in studios. And for a band like us, that can be kind of tough because we definitely have a tight budget. With our last record, the person who helped produce it was sort of comedically unorganized and we essentially had to take the tapes and finish it ourselves and fix a bunch of things. It’s almost unfair to expect somebody else to sit there and watch us, you know… unless they really are our therapist... to watch us extract these ideas and try this thing and try that thing and essentially learn as we go, or as I go, at least for me with my personal relationship with certain instruments that I haven’t played. Rob: Both Evan and I have produced records for other people in the past, so we have that kind of tool kit of being able to switch hats and try to be objective and try to see the big picture when, as artists you tend to get caught in the details. That definitely helps, but also the kind of economic thing… we all get paid for some things, but this is not our livelihood, we all have jobs. So, part of that means we have to integrate it with our

Follow on Twitter: @agesandages

AGES AND AGES ME YOU THEY WE STANDOUT TRACK: “NEEDLE AND THREAD”

PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2019 25


GEAR TEST

TOUR TEST: Galaxy AS-1400 26 JUNE/JULY 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE


GEAR TEST

[Editor’s note – recently, we sent a brand new personal wireless receiver/transmitter and in-ear package from Galaxy Audio to the Rusty Wright Band so they could test it out on the road, and report back on their experiences. Be sure to head to our social media pages to watch some video clips of the system in action, and keep reading below for the band’s thoughts on the Galaxy AS-1400.]

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orking musicians are always on the lookout for the biggest bang for the buck when it comes to gear and the Galaxy Audio AS-1400 personal monitor system offers great value for the $499 price tag. Our blues rock act performs at major festivals, intimate listening rooms, and every sort of venue in between. Our goal was to assemble a tour-worthy in-ear monitor system that could be used across a wide spectrum of performance settings. I was selected by Performer Magazine to receive and review the Galaxy AS-1400 system as part of a promotion by the magazine. We liked the system so much my gear-savvy husband (Rusty Wright) immediately purchased a second system for himself after comparing the AS-1400 specs with comparable systems costing hundreds more.   The components are well constructed. We were impressed with the substantial feel of the metal transmitter chassis and sturdy plastic receiver. Multiple receivers can be used with a single transmitter but in our case, each band member’s preferred monitor mix varies greatly so we opted for separate units. Our units are synced up to a Behringer X Air XR18 digital mixer and we each use the X Air Monitor Mixer phone app which allows us to make changes to our in-ear mix midperformance, if necessary. Having never used in ear monitors before, I wasn’t sure how I’d like using them but I am thrilled with the clarity and quality of the sound. When you’re five foot one and often deal with ear-level cymbals at close range, suddenly being able to hear each voice and instrument clearly makes me feel like a kid on Christmas morning. The EB4 earbuds sound perfectly fine but we did upgrade to earphones that stay in place better as we move on stage quite a bit. Overall, highly recommended. -Laurie LaCross-Wright of the Rusty Wright Band For more info, visit rustywrightband.com and galaxyaudio.com.

PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2019 27


RECORDING

Beginner’s Guide to an Effective Audio Mix You just made some beautiful music - you may have also recorded a singer or rapper on it. Now, the only thing between the masterpiece you have created and your listeners is the mixing process. To be honest, mixing can prove to be a very daunting task, sometimes taking several hours (or days) per track. If you are a producer, you probably spend more time on improving your mixing skills than beatmaking or arranging. Before I go into the nitty-gritty of mixing, one crucial factor you need to sort out is your listening environment. This includes your listening gear and your room. You need to make sure your source is feeding you “the truth” i.e. what you’re hearing is as 28 JUNE/JULY 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE

transparent as possible. You also need to make sure your room acoustics do not compromise the information you’re getting from your speakers or headphones. There’s a lot more to say on the subject of room acoustics, and if you are not quite sure how to go about fixing up your room, I’ll advise that you go with headphones. The best are planar magnetic headphones you can use for mixing and get transparent sounds. Things to consider while doing audio mixing: Listening Level Now to do mixing properly, one thing you need to consider is to set your volume levels. Bear in mind that while mixing, it is better to set your monitoring volume such that you can hear

normal volume speech above the music playing. There are two main reasons for this: First, listening at the reduced level will preserve your eardrums and prevent them from tiring out easily. This means you can mix for extended hours without getting jaded. The second reason is that it limits the effect of room reflection since the sound is barely even hitting the walls. Gain Staging Next is gain staging. This is where you work on the volumes of individual instruments and voices. The goal here is to adjust them such that the main output has enough headroom. This is assuming that you employed proper gain staging during the tracking process, as well (be sure to


Headroom is the difference between your main output level and the clipping level. So, what you’re doing here basically is to drop the peaks on tracks that are too close to the clipping point. Balancing After gain staging, you want to determine where each track sits, volume-wise. Depending on the style or genre of music you’re working on, different instruments have different average volume levels .i.e. some elements of the music would generally be louder than others. So, you are trying to set the volume levels for each element here. This stage is important because, even though you haven’t gone far in the process, you can make sense of the music.

spatial locations. More reverb can make a snare sound as though it is behind the piano, but drying up the snare .i.e. reducing the reverb will bring it forward, so to speak. What delay does is quite similar to reverb. However, if you master your delay plug-ins well, there are several effects that you can use on your vocals and instruments. Among other things delay can make a sound “bigger”. Whether a vocal or a guitar sound, when the delay is well applied, there can be much more depth to the sound. In Closing Above all, you must always remember the rule of thumb, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Especially when using the EQ and compressor,

if it sounds good, then don’t over process it. This is especially true of distorted guitars that may already be heavily compressed, or synths pumping out pure square waves that don’t really require any additional post work. The whole point of mixing is to make beauty in the music more obvious to the listener. Therefore, the most important part of all of this is the music in itself. Make good music, get good recordings with the best front-end you can manage, and you can be sure to have a smooth mixing process.

RECORDING

keep this high on the priority list during each stage of the process, from recording to mixing and mastering.)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Akshay R.H is an audiophile and a professional blogger at SoundMaximum, covering everything he’s learned regarding audio recording and high-end audio equipment.

Equalization Equalization is the next big thing in line in our journey to effective audio mixing. What an EQ does basically is to give “shape” to the sound. The overall sonic quality of your music is majorly tied to your EQ process. Here are some EQ tips, which work in a large percentage of scenarios: * Roll of frequencies below 80Hz on all instruments and vocals except the kick and bass. * Wide boosts, narrow cuts. * Try EQing in mono first, after which you switch back to stereo to check the soundstage and for any lingering phase issues. * If you can, create a little dip between 2KHz and 4KHz when EQing the instruments to create room for the vocals Compression In order of importance, after equalization, compression should come up. Essentially, compression is the process of making the general volume of a track, vocal or instrument automate itself, attenuating and increasing as the music progresses. However, compression has evolved to become something of art on its own. Compression can give character to the vocal or instrument to which it is added. Careful manipulation of the threshold, gain, attack, and release knobs on the compressor can give different dynamics to the elements of the music. Work with the knobs and presets to know what works for which. Delay and Reverb To further cement the place of each element in the music, reverbs and delays are necessary. Reverbs can help the elements of music reside better in 3D space -- you can use subtle or exaggerated reverb settings to help a listener have the sensation of an element being in real PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2019 29


GEAR REVIEWS

TC ELECTRONIC DVR-250DT Desktop-Controlled Plug-in

P

lug-ins really made things easier overall – with fewer big boxes and racks to take up space. BUT, turning knobs and hardware offers up immediate (and satisfying) tactile results. TC found a way to be minimal, but still give the user fingertip functionality with their new DVR-250DT unit. The DVR-250DT is a plug-in emulation of the classic EMT 250 Reverb device. It was a big device back in the day with levers and controls that looked like part of the set of classic Star Trek. It was also VERY expensive, and usually only found in the most high-end studios of the time. The plug-in works with TC’s controller, and has four paddle-like levers that are very ’70s video game-ish. Beneath those levers are the program buttons of Reverb, Delay, Phaser, Chorus, Echo and Space. Now the plug-in will work without the controller, meaning you don’t have to lug it around. However, after 60 days, it will only process, and not offer up any adjustability. Connect back to the DAW, and all is forgiven, and it’s back to normal. Using it is amazingly easy; drop it in to a

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session and go to town. First off, the presets are really super functional right out of the box. The descriptions send you to what you are actually looking for, making tweaking something that’s not like fumbling in the dark. For drums, it interacts like you always imagined a reverb should. It’s not hyper polished, but natural and earthy. Sliding it into guitar tracks, again it doesn’t get to the point where a preset was designed based on the algorithm, it feels like the designers tailored it to actual musical situations that are quite practical and honest. Vocals also really sit nicely in the mix. A lot of times, especially with reverb, less is more, but getting that balance of less to be present when soloing a track to get a feel for it, and then rebalancing it when it’s back the mix, can be tricky. But not here; dialing in the parameters via the paddles is super-efficient overall. Now with the added effects such as modulation and delay, it can go a lot deeper than just mere reverb alone. The paddles are super easy to adjust things quite quickly, and it’s very intuitive – just make the adjustment, and move on. It didn’t feel like there was a lot of back and

forth across the parameters when applying this to a mix. We liked that a lot. Overall, the software really interacts with the hardware in an easy fashion, and offers up a quick workflow for something as delicate and subtle as a reverb can be, even at extreme settings. It’s the right blend of physical controls with a digital processing that’s not over done, and not missing any option. We like the option of controlling what’s on screen with something tactile, and hope this trend continues.  Chris Devine

PROS

CONS

STREET PRICE

Highly interactive controller for excellent reverb plug-in. Super easy workflow

None.

$349


GEAR REVIEWS

PROS

Perfect delays and modulations, physical controller is great, easy editing. CONS

Absolutely none. STREET PRICE

$299

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TC ELECTRONIC TC2290-DT Desktop-Controlled Plug-in

C’s delay units were pretty much industry standard in the 1980s, not only in studios, but in live rigs for guitar players, as well. It’s a delay sound that while being digital, had a character to itself that was quite desirable. Go looking for a vintage unit, and they command a big price. Now TC has brought the essence of that box back with a plug-in that lives in your DAW, but with a separate hardware controller that lives on your desktop. Download and install the software, connect the controller via USB, and fire up your DAW. Installation complete. The physical controller gives a tactile experience to all the aspects of the plug-in, which we LOVE. But, it’s all done without the hassle of scrolling or right clicking through menus and parameters and any editing functions. We’re sold on that feature alone. So, let’s start with the physical controller, which looks and feels like the classic 2290 rack, just without the size. Well-lit input and output meters, along will full controls of the

delay, feedback, pan and dynamic as well as modulations are all found here. Now in each of those sections there are dedicated controls for further tweaking and adjustments. It may seem like a lot, but it’s quite intuitive; within a couple of minutes, we had a sound we were looking for, and it was right on the money. Now, it can work without the controller. Let’s say you’re mixing while on vacation, and don’t want to bring anything other than a laptop. The plug-in will work via the UI for 60 days, then will go into demo mode, and do just processing, no ability to adjust any settings. Plug the controller back in, and it’s back to normal. Sound-wise, it’s got a lot going on. The 2290 has been the high water mark for a lot of classic digital delays, and with this unit, it reproduces those sounds faithfully and easily. One great effect that the 2290 was known for is a “ducking ” delay. It’s a delay that when there’s signal going through, the un-delayed signal has forward presence, and the delayed signal sits under it. Stop playing,

and that delayed signal rises up in the mix. It’s a really intelligent and especially great on guitars and synth lines. The chorus and flanging sounds are perfect for creating ambient soundscapes, too. Want that hyper clean shimmer and sparkle? No problem. It’s easy to get overwhelmed at first glance, but thankfully TC has mapped out some presets that are really, really great. The description is right on point for the application. No selecting a patch that is so far off target that it’s unusable, which can be common with presets. Call one up, with a couple of taps to the controller, it’s there. Done. If you create custom patches, those can be saved as well. TC has also been developing their TonePrint library, and sharing those with users for an ever-expanding palette. Overall, it’s perfect. All the best delays and modulations, with a control system that’s real time and tactile. Our only question is, “TC, what took you so long?” But we’re beyond happy you made it!  Chris Devine PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2019 31


GEAR REVIEWS

WAGGI W34 Pedalboard Review

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hat Waggi has done is taken the typical metal slat pedalboard, and added a raised shelf area. Now that shelf is hinged and does give easy access to the items below, which is great. What to put under the shelf? Well, since it’s not one of those odd angled designs, it’s a no brainer place for a pedalboard’s power supply. There’s no need for external brackets or hardware, just the mounting method of choice for the seemingly endless variations of power solutions for pedalboards. Let’s say you’re a player who has a few pedals that are always on, and never get tweaked with, like a reverb pedal. This space is perfect for items like that. Guitarists who use pedal switchers, like the Boss MS Series, or a Loop-Master, it’s a great place to tuck pedals away, while the lower deck can be filled up with the control switcher or other pedals that get active use. The shelf doesn’t run the length of the pedalboard, so the lower deck has a jog in it, with extra depth, perfect for expression, volume or wah pedals, as well as larger pedals, like a round style Fuzz Face.

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Included is a roll of Velcro that fits on the slats nicely, and allows custom placement of pedals to your location of choice. One great added design feature is the cable management. The space under the deck rails is open, and Waggi has cable retainers that can be screwed in to keep power cables in place. The unit we got was the W34, which was large enough for several big pedals, like our full sized Vox Wah, a Death By Audio Fuzz War, as well as our favorite selection of Choruses, Delays, Reverbs and Tremolos. We ran out of space on our power supply before we ran out of space on the board! Players who use big footprint pedals like the Boss 500 and Strymon units will still have plenty of room. Waggi also makes them in more manageable sizes, like their 20” and 28” wide versions. Included is a soft bag that has padding and pockets for cables and other items. Overall it’s got all the bases covered -- the hinged area is easy to access, and if there needs to be any tweaking or troubleshooting (no, you never have to fiddle with your pedalboard, do you?) you can do it on-

the-spot. The cable management is great, as well. Getting a board made by one of those custom pedalboard designers would cost a lot more than this -- but the Waggi unit comes equipped with the same pro-level features, just without the prolevel prices.  Chris Devine

PROS

CONS

STREET PRICE

Shelf area (and lower shelf) very usable, great cable management design

None.

$269


GEAR REVIEWS

FLUID AUDIO SRI-2 Interface Review

PROS

Functional, practical features, well designed. CONS

None. STREET PRICE

$249

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mall format interfaces are great, but the gain in desktop real estate sometimes means a loss in features or functionality, or porting over processing back to the DAW. Fluid Audio keeps things small, but maintains practical features with great sound in their new 2-channel SRI-2 interface. First off this thing has some heft to it. A lot of smaller 2-channel interfaces can easily get pulled around a deskspace with a tug of a headphone cable. Not here; its heavy aluminum chassis feels super sturdy. The first item that’s noticeable is the big monitor knob, with its super smooth feel and response. With a pair of combo XLR/1/4” connections on the front, each input has its own gain control, VU level meter, and is selectable between instrument and line level. The unit gets power from the USB connection, which in turn has enough juice to support phantom power for your condenser mics. There is a SUM function, which means it normally routes input 1 to the left output, and input 2 to the right side. Hit the Sum button, and it centers them, creating a mono soundscape. When it’s running signal in a mixing situation, it functions like a standard stereo output. Speaking of outputs, there are two sets of 1/4” speaker

outputs. The front panel also has a selectable button that lets you toggle between them. A standard 1/4” headphone connection with its own level control is also available. Now it does come with a copy of Cubase LE, but it works great with pretty much everything from GarageBand to Pro Tools. We had no issues using it with Studio One 4, our office DAW of choice. Right out of the box, it connected to our Mac with no issues and no need for additional software or drivers. It also comes with a copy of Cubase for iOS as well. However, it will need to get power from a separate power connection for connection to an iPad or iPhone. We didn’t get a cable to support it, but we found one in our evergrowing box of cables, and it connected easily to both the stock GarageBand app and Cubase on our iPad. Like most other interfaces, latency is covered by the unit itself, not the DAW. A great feature on this unit is the DAW/INPUT mix control. It balances the output from what’s being recorded into the unit, and the DAW playback. It works great splitting the signal between the headphones; the SUM control interacts with this feature as well, as it can make it a mono signal output for a better

image if need be. Overall, it opens up a lot of possibilities for really low, almost zero, latency tracking situations. Audio quality was great, the mic pre’s are good, and don’t color things in any unnatural way. Plugging in guitars direct presented no issues, and it worked nicely with some of our fave mics like our trusty SM57’s and our new fave, Blue’s Ember. What makes it really special is the ability to hook up two separate sets of monitors and toggle between them to check mixes. Truth be told, this is a feature that’s usually not found on interfaces in this class, and it’s really something that SHOULD be standard. The new interface from Fluid checks all the boxes, with great preamps and a simple layout that’s functional without being intimidating. iOS connectivity makes portable recording super easy and it’s also not any more expensive than most 2-channel interfaces on the market. The ability to connect a second set of speakers makes your DAW a more powerful mixing suite, which is why we’d recommend this unit for the budgetconscious home studio user.  Chris Devine PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2019 33


GEAR REVIEWS

IK Multimedia Axe I/O Interface

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ow about an interface that’s optimized for guitarists, with guitar related software that will make the player want to plug in, and get the same feel and response of real world rigs? IK’s done it masterfully with their new AXE I/O. The front panel is pretty well loaded up, with dedicated inputs for guitar, but input 1 has a bit more going for it with a section marked Z Tone. It has an impedance control knob that adds in some color options, like a hardness that’s nice and bright, and as it’s increased, a warmth and a bit of a darker tone. This is great to tune the input signal to specific guitars’ pickups and response differences between say a Tele’s single coil, and a Les Paul’s humbucker. Speaking of pickups, there’s a selector that optimize the input for passive or active pickups, adjusting the input signal for those hotter EMG equipped instruments. Finally, a selector between a JFET or a pure, unaltered circuit for the input. The JFET adds in some nice warmer mid and low-mid frequencies, like a classic mic preamp. These selections give plenty of options and should cover any tone tweaking during tracking. The Preset knob allows the user to scroll through amp models in the included Amplitube 4 Deluxe (more on that in a bit), and a tuner function with a display is also available. Monitoring can be adjusted for low latency, balancing the signal between the direct, and the DAW signal. Headphone outs as well as amp out, and master control for external monitoring are located here, as well. Getting everything up and running isn’t that hard; just download a copy of the AXE I/O control app, and then Amplitube 4 Deluxe, along with a copy of their T-racks Processing plug-ins and it’s good to go. It all pairs nicely with any DAW software, and we ran all this into Studio One with no issues.

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As usual, Amplitube is impressive. With over 30 stompboxes that cover, well pretty much everything, 15 rack effects, 25 Amp models, 29 cabinets, (and 29 speakers), 12 microphones, it comes close to option paralysis, but within a couple of mouse clicks, dialing in a tone that’s familiar (using digital replications of the actual hardware) is incredibly easy. Let’s talk about T-racks; it’s insane, covering emulations of great studio hardware: Compressors, Limiters, EQ, Channel strips, De-essers, Mic Modeling, Room Reverbs, Tape Echo, and their all-in-one mastering processor. Remember the amp out feature? This is the easiest way of blending a real amp with the Amplitube software at the same time -- run the amp out to an input of an amp, mic it up, and connect that mic to the AXE I/O’s input, and now you can have multiple channels of a single signal. Another great feature is the ability to connect two external control pedals, like a channel switcher, or an expression pedal. This now makes a laptop running Amplitube a practical and viable live tool. It might take some getting used to calling a MacBook connected to an interface your “rig,” but it’s actually feasible concept. For guitar players that want to get a nice, simple DAW interface, the guitar-centric tone tweaking options here make it a steal, and that’s not even considering Amplitube 4 and T-racks. Want to take tracks home from a studio and get amazing results without the hassles of booking time? Yeah, this is it. Chris Devine

PROS

Excellent design, plenty of tonal options with included software. CONS

None. STREET PRICE

$349


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orking on guitars can seem like looking into an abyss, if you’ve never gone past changing strings or changing pickup heights. Setting neck relief, string height, and intonation isn’t that hard, if you have the right tools. Inside the vinyl pouch are a set of string cutters, thickness gauges, metal ruler, capo, string winder, hex wrenches (metric and standard) with ball ends for angled use, as well as a 6-in-1 screwdriver. Also included is a handy guide to guitar setups. It’s certainly a well-stocked kit that has just what’s needed for doing most typical guitar setups, without going down the rabbit hole of getting every last esoteric tool for every possible situation. If you come across a situation where this set of tools can’t do a good setup, it’s a more serious situation for your instrument. Players who travel a bit would really benefit from one of these. Weather can wreak havoc on an instrument, especially during transit. Going on a tour from Maine to Georgia in January? More than likely something will shift a bit. Instruments

GEAR REVIEWS

CRUZTOOLS GrooveTech Guitar Player Tech Kit

with unfinished, open pore necks are more than likely to run into issues, and adjusting the neck relief and action doesn’t take that much effort. You may not be able to pull a dented fret, but it can keep you from having to employ a full time tech to keep fret action from buzzing or fretting out. Need to change string gauges, from 10’s to 11’s? You’ll want to adjust the relief, action and intonation. This kit has everything needed to do that. It might even make you wonder why you pay your local tech for his services, especially if a couple of minutes with the right tools can solve issues on the road, or in the studio (that’s usually when fret buzzing is most noticeable). The case is also a decent size if you need to throw in a couple of sets of strings, or even those factory supplied truss rod wrenches that always flop around in a guitar case. If a player wanted to get this same set of tools separately, it could cost at least double what this neat package, retails for, so it’s certainly reasonable, cost-wise. With a little time spent tweaking, you might find that YOU can set up your instruments better than someone you’ve been paying all these years.  Chris Devine

PROS

CONS

STREET PRICE

Good selection of functional tools for doing setups

None

$59

PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2019 35


GEAR REVIEWS

TAYLOR GUITARS 317E Grand Pacific Acoustic Guitar

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e’ve reviewed quite a few of Taylor acoustic guitars in the last 2+ years or so. All along the way we’ve raved about their overall quality. Their 317E features their new V class bracing, and it’s quite amazing to see a feature normally found on their more expensive instruments trickling down to the rest of the line. As usual, the materials Taylor use are tried and true. A sitka spruce top, with solid sapele back and sides. The top is finished in a crystal clear glossy finish, while the back and sides are done in satin. The black binding on the front and rear is very subtle looking. With 20 frets and a 25.5” scale, the tropical mahogany neck has an extremely comfortable carve, with a 1.75” nut width. The fingerboard is gorgeous West African Ebony, with their gemstone design inlaid with Italian acrylic. Working our way to the headstock, again, we see the West African Ebony, and a larger version of the fret marker’s visual motif. Let’s get the usual gushing about Taylor’s attention to detail, the design, and the overall build quality out of the way. It may not be as expensive as some of the pricier models we’ve reviewed, but it has all of the same nuanced quality. Out of the case, it was ready to go. That first open G chord rang, and rang, and rang (thanks V-class). Overall, its insanely well balanced, with no odd frequency range being sharp or harsh, and the bass response was very nice and articulate, even in the lower ranges. This is more than likely a response of the V class bracing, along with the

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Grand Pacific body shape. The V class bracing allows the soundboard to just resonate more and through some sort of sorcery, intonation is perfect across the entire fingerboard, while still retaining the rigidity for structural stability and tone. A lot of Taylor guitars we’ve reviewed have had a really modern and hyper articulate sound, but the 317E featured more overall warmth, while still maintaining clarity. A true magic trick. It’s not vintage-y, but it has a sound that broken in, older instruments have. You’ll know it when you hear it. The body shape is extremely comfortable, no getting that arm pinch on the lower bout, in both seated and standing positions. No issues with the neck’s comfort either, even using it for multiple live sets a night during our evaluation period. That neck comfort makes digging into it a pleasure, and melody and leads sustain just how you’ve always wanted an acoustic to. It’s a classic yet better balanced sound than the classics ever were. The E in the name means it’s electric and it’s fitted with Taylor’s Expression System 2, which features a Piezo pickup, but it’s mounted behind the bridge, not under it. Again, no issues there, the simple volume/treble/bass control system made it easy to dial in what’s needed, regardless of the PA system. The $1899 street price isn’t unreasonable, considering the materials, build quality, and of course sound. It’s one of those guitars that is really hard to put down. We shed a little tear when we had to send it back (no joke).  Chris Devine

PROS

Well made, excellent sound and amazingly comfortable feel CONS

None STREET PRICE

$1899


GEAR REVIEWS

TAYLOR GUITARS 517E Grand Pacific Builders Edition

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aylor’ using some amazing ingredients; a sitka spruce top that’s been torrefied, which means the top wood has been really dried out to maximize its overall stability. Ever wonder why old acoustics sound so good? It’s because they’ve dried out over the years. The back and the sides are tropical mahogany, as is the internal bracing. The V Class bracing design allows for the top to vibrate where it needs to, and maintain rigidity where it’s needed. The result is a top that’s calibrated for both needs of resonance and structure. The body’s front and rear binding and rosette is sapele, and was very subtle in appearance. Our test version’s body was finished in a satin “Wild Honey Burst” finish, which gives it a blend of the vintage and modern all at once. The neck is made from tropical mahogany, with a nice comfortable shape, along with a satin finish that didn’t get sticky or gross after long playing sessions. With 20 frets installed in the West African ebony fingerboard, the 25.5” scale length and 1.75” nut width was very familiar, while the arrowhead fret markers were very nicely applied in Ivoroid. West African ebony binds the neck and fingerboard and even more West African ebony can be found on the headstock overlay, again with the Arrowhead inlay that ties it all together. It’s equipped with Taylor’s Expression System 2, that has a simple control layout of Volume, Bass & Treble. It’s not the typical Piezo – like the other model we’ve reviewed this month, Taylor locates their pickup behind the bridge

saddles, not under it. It makes for less direct pressure on the pickup, and doesn’t require any extreme EQ to minimize any harshness. Overall, it’s very flexible and easy to use, with a natural and open sound. Kudos. Sound-wise, the Grand Pacific brings a bigger, almost D-style sound in a much smaller body type. That first chord really rang out amazingly well, with massive sustain. Our test guitar got played quite a bit, going through practices and a couple of gigs for our reviewer’s acoustic cover band. The neck shape was very comfortable (no surprise there), and the smaller rounded shoulder body style made playing in a seated position easy with no twinge of a picking forearm pinch. Each chord was vibrant and balanced. There’s a bigness to the overall sound that usually doesn’t come from smaller bodied guitars. Overall it’s a more complex tone, with an added richness to the top end that doesn’t get curtailed, while the bottom and mids retain their definition. No issues playing across the entire fingerboard, with excellent note attack, volume and sustain that didn’t fight itself and remained tonally balanced. So, what’s it gonna cost me? Well, at $2999 it’s not cheap, but this is one of their Builder Editions, which means you’re getting all the bells and whistles. However, those little extra touches do add up, and the result is a big and rich sounding guitar that’s comfortable to play and will last you a lifetime. If you’re looking to invest in an instrument you can play on stage and in the studio for decades to come, why would you cheap out? Chris Devine

PROS

Classy look, big, rich and warm sound, very comfortable playability. CONS

Slightly pricey, but worth the investment. STREET PRICE

$2999

PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2019 37


GEAR REVIEWS

MAD PROFESSOR Double Moon Modulation Pedal

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he Double Moon’s controls are pretty simple, and the added tone control works nicely, giving a bit more cut, as some choruses can tend to soften things up signal-wise. An eleven position rotary switch gives plenty of options of modulations: three modes of chorus, plus three additional modes of dual chorus, three flanger variations, flanger and chorus, as well as vibrato. Now the control knob gives an extra layer of adjustment, and it controls different aspects of that selection, depending up on the position of the rotary knob. With all of these options, and the varying control functions, it’s hard to believe this is an analog pedal. Starting off with the choruses, it does a lot, and the amazing thing is how subtle it can be. Players who want that little extra sheen, without the warble, should take notice. It can give chords that extra sparkle and shimmer. Even moving up into more noticeable settings, clarity is really well maintained. One effect that sometimes doesn’t mix well with modulations is overdrives and distortions, as the low strings sometimes get too processed, and make a guitar sound out of tune. Not here -- as it seems to capture that top end wash nicely, without flubbing out the low end. For players who actually like the warble, don’t worry, increasing the speed and rate controls takes it into Univibe and faux rotary territories quite nicely. The tweak ability of the control knob brings in the LFO waveform, between a sine wave and triangular wave configuration, which can really take things from casual swooping to a more aggressive soundscape. Want to get more modern? The Dual chorus modes really shine here -- think of the dimension of pristine ’80s pop, like the added air of “Purple Rain.” The pedal is using a dual delays to get that extra glassiness. With two modes that cover 180 and 120 degrees out of phase signals, it’s quite refined. The third mode allows the ability to dial in the speed differences of the choruses. Very nice. At the end of the day, it checks off a lot of desirable boxes: it’s analog, true bypass, and has plenty of great classic choruses and flanges. Our reviewer really liked how it emulated classic ’80s choruses, before everything went digital, as this has warmth and character that lives up to the legend. The perception may be that analog choruses are warbly, over the top and noisy. Nope, Nope and Nope. It can be as subtle as a feather, and it was quite quiet overall.

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The downside for some players could be the price tag, but for the players who don’t bat an eye spending that much on a drive pedal, this is worth your attention. Now there are some other chorus pedals that are around the same price that offer up expression pedal inputs, MIDI, Tap Tempo and stereo outputs, but in most cases they’re larger, and a lot of guitar players skip the benefits of MIDI, and don’t run in stereo anyway, so the Double Moon is pretty practical overall.  Chris Devine

PROS

Great analog choruses, plenty of adjustability, small format. CONS

expensive. STREET PRICE

$289


GEAR REVIEWS

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o say Sonic Youth left a mark on the alternative movement is an understatement, and Lee Ranaldo’s guitar contributions are far too expansive to list here. Lee and ZT collaborated to develop an amp, and the results are equally as impressive. Starting off, this is a complete solid state design -- no tubes of any sort here. The closed cabinet is made from plywood and MDF, and is just big enough to hold a 12” speaker, which is a Neodymium design, making it super light as well. The amp weighs in at 24 pounds so it certainly won’t break any backs. It’s finished off in a textured black finish that is reminiscent of truck bed liner, and feels a lot more durable than traditional Tolex, with a unique bullseye graphic on the grille.

ZT AMPLIFIERS Lee Ranaldo Signature Amplifier chime on humbuckers, and single coils don’t lack bottom end in any way. Now cranking up the gain, it gets nice and gritty but still articulate. Perfect for that dense rhythm sound that’s punchy and yet still cleans up with the rollback of the volume pot. It doesn’t go into super saturated lead tones, but they sound like the “classic turn it up, and you get more of what you’ll really need” situation. It’s really hard to believe it’s not a tube amp, as the response and depth of the sonic signature hits more of the boxes a player would want from a boutique tube amp.

The controls are fairly conventional: Gain, Volume, Treble, Mid, Bass and Reverb. The controls are recessed into the cabinet and like other ZT amps, the area around the volume control is larger. It makes for finding the volume a lot easier in low light situations. Nice touch.

With plenty of headroom to hang with a loud drummer in a practice space or on stage, you won’t be struggling for power or wattage. Now it can also be connected to an external speaker cabinet at 8 Ohms, with the choice of disengaging the internal speaker. The XLR DI also can be used, with the speaker defeat engaged for silent direct recording. The DI itself is clean, snappy and sparkly. But with higher gain, it just feels like it’s missing something. However, plugging in a gain pedal in front of the amp while running the DI was wonderful.

In a lower gain setting with all EQ’s at noon (and just a lil bit of reverb for our buddy Mark Agnesi) it’s really, really nice. It’s a spring type reverb, as well, that has that classic amp verb which delivers on all fronts. Nothing that’s over the top and impractical. There’s plenty of top end

Which comes to the next area of discussion, using the amp as a pedal platform. Running the gain semi dirty and kicking in a boost or lower gain pedals for tone stacking is amazing. In a lot of cases, tone stacking with a solid state amp usually means more noise than tone, but in this

case it brings in the more a player really wants, and more drive that’s actually usable. The effects loop is also a great feature, so players who want to run time based or modulation effects can keep the signal super clean. Now each one is autographed by Lee, so there’ a pretty cool brag factor there, as well. The Street price is $1499, which might make a lot of purists cringe; spending that much on a solid state amp. But this amp really isn’t for purists, it does all the things a great amp should do, and it does it without being fussy, and lets the player just get creative. Plus, for a Made-in-the-USA amp, it’s actually not that bad. It has all of the heart and tone of a small tube combo, with way more headroom, and way fewer headaches (and backaches)…  Chris Devine

PROS

CONS

STREET PRICE

Great clean tone, higher gain sounds have plenty of clarity, works great with pedals

Slightly pricey (but worth it)

$1499

PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2019 39


GEAR REVIEWS

WESTONE UM Pro 20 In Ear Monitors

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n-ear monitors have come a long way, from expensive, “major act only” cost, to something most working bands can afford. But some affordable IEM’s seem to be lacking in overall build and sound quality. Westone’s UM Pro 20’s offer up superior sound and value for the money. The big deal is getting small format drivers to replicate a full range of sound, so Westone uses a pair of armature drivers in each ear, along with a tuned crossover to balance them out in the low-end. It’s a passive system, and yet quite robust sounding overall. Most inexpensive IEMs usually lack low end response, and yet seem to be way too bright sounding to begin with; thankfully that’s not the case here. There’s plenty of low end response that is still articulate, and the higher end frequencies aren’t shrill or ice-picky. Ever see a performer pull one ear bud out? It’s not to be cool, in most cases, it’s because something isn’t right -- usually in the high end. The drivers and cable are separate pieces (THANK YOU), which snap in and out with just enough force for a positive mechanical connection. So many headphones and ear buds met an early demise when a cable went bad, or an input jack got bent. This modular system is fantastic and means you can replace something quickly instead of junking the entire system because of one little issue. The key to getting a good feel for IEM’s is a solid, comfortable fit, and with the various included ear tips, there’s no issue. Some users like their IEM’s to have a bit of bleed from the outside world, and some like a tight fit to keep the mix entirely in their head. It’s purely a personal preference, but Westone included plenty of options for the user to choose. Sound-wise, these were great -- after finding a comfy set of ear tips, the overall response was nice and focused, with no need for extra EQ pushing to get things to sit nicely. During long sessions this reviewer forgot these were still in his head, they sounded so natural. The size was quite minimal too, as they fit perfectly in the ear and didn’t look goofy or like they were a futuristic cybernetic appliance. The only minor complaint is the markings for the L or R ear were kind of hard to read in low light. But that’s a tiny quibble. Included in the package are 10 pairs of ear tips and a cleaning tool. Thankfully each

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pair is color coded to ensure the user has the same size tip in each ear. A transparent orange waterproof, padded Pelican style case is a nice touch to keep everything in one spot. If IEM’s are in your future, these are a great way to make the jump past the entry level into something that still won’t break the bank, but will still give the user a high quality set of inears that respond and perform fantastically on stage.  Chris Devine

PROS

CONS

STREET PRICE

Modular design, very comfortable, great overall sound

None

$299


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GEAR REVIEWS

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mpulse responses have become the new big deal in amp emulation and plug-ins.

What is an impulse response? Well, the basic down and dirty concept is a signal gets pumped through a speaker, and at the other end, a microphone captures the signal that comes out of it. Now the speaker acts like a filter, enhancing certain frequencies, and rolling some off. Compare the signal that goes in, to the signal that comes out, and that’s the profile (or response) of the speaker.

So, with a lot of amp simulator plug-ins, the speaker section allows 3rd-party Impulse Responses. -- like the ones we got to try out from Celestion. We were using the Ampfire plug-in that is included with PreSonus’ Studio One 4. There are more advanced amp/speaker sim plugins, from other manufacturers, but we figured we would start with a simple version. Celestion made their library available to us, and it’s an expansive one at that. Consider that Celestion pretty much defined the guitar speaker, from the Blue that defined the Vox AC tone, to the Greenback that made Marshall the sound of rock. There are too many variants to list individually, just like Celestion’s physical speaker lineup. But there are a lot, varying from sweet to classic to modern.

CELESTION Speakers Impulse Responses There are a few purchasing options: a complete collection of one particular speaker for $29.99, with open and closed back 1x12, 2x12, as well as closed back 4x12. Individual versions can be purchased for $11.99, but the complete collection offers up a savings of about 50%.

in the room. It brings in the possibility of mixing and matching head and cabs that would probably be unreasonably expensive, and impractical, to a unique reality. How about a Vox AC style amp, with a closed back 4x12 running Celestion’s Gold speakers, with a Royer Ribbon mic? Done.

Each IR comes with versions at commonly used sample rates, and have even further versions with high and low gain modes, as well as in mono and stereo. Microphones have also been included, so if you want to have a Greenback in a closed back 4x12, with a Royer 121, Neumann TL107, Sennheiser 421 or the tried and true SM57, it’s all available. It goes deeper down the rabbit hole, with Balanced, Bright, Dark, Fat, Rear and Thin versions, as well. This means less relying on external EQ’s to dial in the desired version. Overall the sounds are excellent, with plenty of depth and articulation that usually only comes from a true mic’d up cabinet.

For users running more commonly used amp sim plug-ins, this gives the opportunity to create truly unique tones in the box, without a lot of effort. Try to calculate the cost of all of the options for just one speaker and it’s mind boggling getting the best versions of the amazing selections that come in just one $29 package. Highly recommended.  Chris Devine

Running in these IR’s, in lieu of using the stock speaker version in our plug-in, was as simple as dragging and dropping them into the DAW. It was quite amazing seeing how each speaker has its own individual tonal response. We have had a lot of experience mic’ing up classic Marshall cabs, and this solved the usual mic placement and location tweaking of the cabinet

PROS

CONS

STREET PRICE

Great sounds, plenty of options and variants, well priced.

None.

Individual speaker IR’s Start at $11.99, with complete packages at $29.99.

PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2019 43


GEAR REVIEWS

WARM AUDIO WA-84 Small-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone

M

usicians have poured their time and money into perfecting their sound, regardless of the instrument or style of music. So, it makes sense to record in the purest way possible to capture it. A smalldiaphragm condenser mic can achieve this task in most cases, across a variety of applications, and Warm Audio’s WA-84 is their version of a classic mic design that delivers on all fronts (all at a price that can’t be matched). We’ve had some experience with Warm Audio’s gear in the past, and they really pull out all the stops on the selection of components the WA-84 is no exception. Cinemag transformers, Fairchild FET, and polystyrene and Wima capacitors, along with a gold-plated XLR jack. What it adds up to is an amazing sound. It can certainly handle anything thrown at it, either live or in the studio. The maximum SPL is 123dB, and the package includes a case and mic clip, shock mount, and windscreen. Acoustic instruments will really gravitate to this naturally, it’s as if they were made for each other. We used it quite a bit on some acoustic guitar tracks, and it was incredibly well balanced and nuanced in detail, overall. Placement just past the 12th fret about a fist’s distance away, it really captured the punch and attack with a really articulate low and low-mid response that didn’t get woofy or notchy. Getting acoustic guitars to sound good in a room with just one mic isn’t easy, but this one really captured a big and overall vibrant tone easily. Capturing that extra top end without having to add in EQ or compression during tracking was very welcome. Consider this your new #1 mic for acoustic stringed instruments. A great application of this is also as an overhead for drum mics – just grab a pair and you’re good to go. Either as a traditional room mic, or getting creative like angling the capsule against where the room and ceiling meet captures things nicely. Again, the high frequencies aren’t harsh or too aggressive; they’re present, but seem to be rolled off just a bit to keep things natural sounding, while retaining a dynamic response on

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the low end, that right from the start doesn’t need to be tweaked in a DAW during mix-down. So, on its own, it really delivers, but pair it with other mics and it really adds up; it worked really nicely as a counterpart to their WA-251 tube mic, naturally. The two together were a wonderful pair on acoustic stereo guitar tracks, and even when using it with a variety of other manufacturer’s mics, it added in just enough to be present overall, and when pulled from the mix, it was sorely missed. The price is a ridiculously low $399, meaning a pair of these for drum overheads isn’t unreasonable, or even using a trio of them for capturing room sounds is still pretty reasonable on the old studio budget. Warm’s somehow managed to take amazing components, make a great sounding mic, and yet not overcharge. The value of sound vs. cost is well on the user’s side here -- so take advantage of that fact while you can.  Chris Devine

PROS

Great components, great sound, great price CONS

None (other than you might want more than one). STREET PRICE

$399


W

arm Audio has rolled out a 251-style mic that sounds great and is well within reach, pricewise, to the discerning user. Build wise, this is really robust. The all brass capsule design is based off of a CK12, with a 24k 6 micron gold sputtered diaphragm. Cinemag is the transformer of choice and the capacitors are polystyrene, Wima film, while a Solen French cap covers the output end. The tube driving all of this is a JJ Slovak 12AY7. What all of that techno speak means is, Warm went through and picked the best of the best components, for supreme audio quality. Even the seven pin cable from the power supply to the mic is done by Gotham, and is really well done at that. Like the classic “251” it’s meant to evoke, it’s a large diaphragm microphone, with three modes selectable on the power supply unit: omni, cardioid, and figure 8. It can handle pretty much everything thrown at it, with a max SPL of 132dB, a dynamic range of 125dBA, and a frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz (better than human hearing, but who’s counting?). Amazingly, as it’s built like an armored tank, it can really capture nuances incredibly well. We used it as a room mic during a drum tracking session, and it really added a presence to the mix, in a completely surprising way; there was plenty of top-end to help capture the cymbals, without

getting glassy or annoying, while the low-end stayed clear, with plenty of tweakable definition. It was one of those, “We’ll throw it up and see if we actually use it” situations, and it made a really nice addition to the overall “air” of the mix that would have been missed otherwise. Putting it up to a guitar speaker in cardioid mode yielded some fantastic results -- backing it off the grille just a bit gave some really colorful responses overall. As our guitar amp was a solid state design, the tube nicely offset the harshness, but still featured the attack and immediate response we were shooting for. Even the lower end frequencies stayed in the musically lush areas, with articulation that sometimes gets lost in a mix, but not in this instance. Acoustic guitars also really loved this mic; we put it into figure 8 mode in a small room, and it captured a nice balance of the room, as well as the instrument. Even placing the mic closer to the bridge, the top end didn’t get harsh or brittle; in fact it smoothed out the higher frequencies, and still retained an excellent sense of depth. Vocals? Again, amazing. As stated before, it’s really nuanced, and when you go for it, the mic gets out of the way of the performer. Our reviewer kept repeating, “I wish I had this for my last vocal session over and over again, mentioning that this would have made the multi person gang vocal session a lot easier, and better sounding. There’s no need to have to throw EQ or plugins at it, as it simply

GEAR REVIEWS

WARM AUDIO WA-251 Tube Condenser Microphone

just captures the tone placed in front of it perfectly. Don’t tube mics cost a small fortune, especially those 251 styled units? Nope. The whole kit comes in at $799. Yep there’s no number missing before that 7. This mic opens up a ton of great possibilities in any recording application, and considering the cost, it’s not a pipe dream to have two (or more) of these in a mic locker for stereo or multi-performer setups. We loved it, and give it our highest recommendation.  Chris Devine

PROS

Excellent components, fantastically great on pretty much everything, well priced. CONS

None. STREET PRICE

$799 PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2019 45


GEAR REVIEWS

JACK CAPS Protective Covers

S

ometimes an item come out, and it falls under the “huh?” category. It somehow feels like it fills some made up need, but then it comes to hit you that it’s not such a bad idea after all. Jack Caps came up with a unique way to protect cable ends, but they also solve a common problem with cables. Let’s take a look… So, it’s pretty basic: a plastic cap that sits over the end of a cable (in this case a standard ¼” instrument cable), to secure it from falling off and getting lost, tethered by a plastic strap with a collar that acts as a retainer. The cap protects cable end from damage. Simple, right? Now this is where most players/musicians/ users will say “I’ve never had any issues with my naked cable ends in all my time in playing”. OK, true. However, count all the bad cables you’ve had over the years, and where they failed. Yep, at the ends. From getting twisted, bent, crushed, or just tweaked enough to make it unreliable. At some point players make the jump from the typical “buy one, get one” cable deal at a local music store, to something more upscale and expensive. Dare we say “booteek”?

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At one point in the late ’90s, cable companies went crazy with gold ends, soldered in a vacuum chamber, with distilled unicorn tears. You get the idea, and with that craziness, came with crazy prices. It’s seemed to settle down a bit, but quality cables are still expensive. A set of these could prevent damage to cable ends in transit, while they’re rattling around in a pedalboard case, or the typical musician’s caddy: the milkcrate. Consider all the great studio headphones (not earbuds) that don’t come with detachable cables. The reason they’ve failed is usually the cable end, getting stomped on. One of these could have easily prevented that. One great side benefit is that by putting one of these at each end of a cable, the retaining strap can act as a binder to hold the cables in coiled form. No more Velcro strips that get gross on beer-soaked stages. A set comes in at $11.99, and for protecting an expensive cable, it’s not bad. But the ability to have the cable end protected, and neatly coiled up, ready for the next gig, it’s totally worth the peace of mind.  Chris Devine

PROS

Protects cable ends, retaining straps keep cables neatly coiled. CONS

None. STREET PRICE

$11.99


GEAR REVIEWS

PROS

Great natural feel and response, excellent reverb, warm gain tones. CONS

Some of the higher gain tones are kind of meh with the DI, but remedied with a decent gain pedal. STREET PRICE

$1299

T

here’s plenty of power here in a pretty tiny package, with 220 watts of solid state juice available for plenty of headroom in just about any situation. It’s enough to drive an external speaker, along with the internal 12” one on-board. Want to run it into just an external cabinet? No problem, it has an internal speaker shut off as well. This pairs nicely with the XLR DI Out, for silent recording or running into a PA for live gigs. An effects loop is also offered up, and works great with all the stompboxes we threw at it. Now when the term “jazz amp” gets thrown around a few things are kind of assumed: clean, which is always a good thing, and the other is usually dark. A lot of traditional solid state jazz amps fall into this category. Thankfully, not here. There is plenty of high end cut that projects with a rich top end, while maintaining clarity. This isn’t your traditional “warm” jazz combo. Yes, it can be clean as you want it to be. The

ZT AMPLIFIERS Custom Shop Jazz Club Amp EQ is really nice overall; we found starting at all EQ’s at half-mast was the best starting place, and working from there was the best process to dial everything in. It’s really snappy overall, with excellent presence. The closed back design gives plenty of tight low end as well, with no flubbyness or mud. Great for those super-fast jazz runs or octave solos. We had no problems finding happy tonal places for humbuckers as well as single coils. It didn’t feel too Hi-Fi either, just nice and natural. Which brings us to the reverb. It’s based off of a spring style verb, and is really nice and lush. It’s what guitar players think of when reverb is mentioned – which is a good thing. Turn up the gain, and it behaves more like a tube amp. Again, it’s nice and natural. Players might like to crank the gain up and ride the volume controls on their instrument, for better dynamics. The gain is plentiful as well, and at higher volumes it can get gritty/sweet like a driven Fender-ish flavor. It feels and responds great and one thing must be noted: IT’S LOUD!

This is not one of those low headroom bedroom volume amps, it can hang on stage with ease. The only downside was some of the amp’s higher gain settings didn’t translate as well through the DI channel, while the lower gain sounds had no issues. But to make things stranger, a gain pedal with it running DI, was fantastic. Just like our findings with the Lee Ranaldo signature amp we also reviewed this month. The street price is $1299, which might seem a bit steep for a solid state combo, but no one flinched when low wattage, lower headroom combos, started to be common at that same price. And again, like the LR sig amp a few pages back, it’s made in the USA. Considering the available headroom, and natural feel, the fact that you’ll never have to buy another tube, and yet still gave a great tone, it all starts to make sense…  Chris Devine

PERFORMER MAGAZINE JUNE/JULY 2019 47


MY FAVORITE AXE

MAKE & MODEL

Fender EOB Stratocaster

(Ed

O’Brien)

Sustainer

WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU

This guitar is the newest addition to my family so I’m really pumped about it. I spend most of my days in my little bedroom studio and for the most part, I have her slung around my shoulder. I’d be lost without her. WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE

This model has the JB Junior in the bridge and the Texas Special on the middle pickup which gives it that classic Fender punch and clarity. What sets this guitar apart is the Ed O’Brien sustainer driver that essentially creates this feedback sound when you play. I’ve found that it’s really cool for making ambient sounds when recording, but I imagine it would be a great live tool for interludes between songs, as well. I can’t wait to road test it! MODS & SPECS

I haven’t made any real mods yet but I did throw on some strap locks. It just gives me that extra bit of security when I’m slinging my guitar around on stage. This puppy has quite a large neck which is perfect for me because I have pretty big hands. It’s also super light so I’ve noticed how much longer I can wear it before my shoulders feel like they’re going to fall off. FINAL THOUGHTS

Because it’s so new for me, it didn’t get the chance to make any of my records that are out. But I’ve been in rehearsals all week and she feels really comfortable over all of my tracks. It’s such a diverse guitar! LISTEN NOW at jackgraymusic.com

MY FAVORITE AXE

with Jack

Got a favorite instrument or piece of gear you’d like to share? Email us at ben@performermag.com

GRAY Dillon Pena

48 JUNE/JULY 2019 PERFORMER MAGAZINE


Covered

ATM350a Instrument Microphone Systems Whatever your instrument, Audio-Technica has an ATM350a microphone system to ensure it sounds great. Not only does this cardioid condenser come with an array of mounts – including a robust gooseneck built to stay where you set it – but it also provides clear, well-balanced response (even at high SPLs). So no matter what, where or how you play, the ATM350a has you covered. audio-technica.com

woodwinds

piano

universal

drums

strings

guitar

surface


Profile for Performer Magazine

Performer Magazine: June/July 2019  

Featuring Ages and Ages, Alan Hertz, WYO and much more...

Performer Magazine: June/July 2019  

Featuring Ages and Ages, Alan Hertz, WYO and much more...