Doug Fearn draws on his 50+ years as a recording engineer, record producer, studio owner, and pro audio equipment designer to explain the art and science of recording for the audiophile, music lover, and people in the music recording industry.
Audio Quality with George & Geoff Hazelrigg
Geoff and George Hazelrigg are not only my business partners, but also superb musicians with decades of studio experience.
We seem to always agree on what makes a compelling recording. In this informal conversation, we talk about how artifacts of any kind will detract from the listener’s enjoyment. We share what we have discovered to be the best combination of gear and technique to make recordings we are pleased with.
The second part of this conversation, where we discuss DSD high-resolution recording, will become an upcoming episode.
Your comments, questions, and suggestions are always interesting and helpful to me. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find extra material for many podcasts, as well as links to every episode, at my podcast web site, www.dougfearn.com
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Dolby Atmos explained by Dale Becker
Major record labels and other music providers are committed to adopting Dolby Atmos and other immersive audio technologies. There is a huge amount of work available to re-mix a label’s entire catalog in the new formats.
Dale Becker, of Becker Mastering in Los Angeles, has become an expert on the practical aspects of Dolby Atmos. You may remember Dale from Episode 16 last year. Dale is a sought-after mastering engineer with decades of experience. He masters many of the most important recordings of our time.
In this new episode, Dale explains Dolby Atmos, the advantages to the music listener, his experiences in starting from zero and learning all he could about the format, and he explains how the new immersive audio formats are changing our job. Dale explains the basics of Atmos, and the challenges and rewards of setting up a control room for the format. He also gives us insight on how we might change our recording habits with Atmos in mind.
I started by asking Dale to explain in practical terms what Atmos is and how it benefits the listener.
Robin Eaton: Songwriter, Musician, Studio Owner
Robin Eaton is a songwriter, musician, vocalist, and studio owner based in Nashville. I’ve known Robin for over 40 years, since he lived in nearby Wilmington, Delaware. He came into my studio around 1980 to record demos for several songs and I was blown away by the quality of his compositions.
In this informal and wide-ranging conversation, Robin talks about his early influences, such as writing poetry when he was five years old, his adventures in the music business in the U.S. and Europe, and how he eventually settled in Nashville and now owns two very successful studios.
We talk about some of Robin’s songs. There are links to the songs on my podcast web site, https://www.dougfearn.com
As a songwriter, Robin as has a long-time collaboration with Jill Sobule, and many others.
Thank you for your continued support of this podcast. My aim is to pass along my experience in the world of audio, music, and recording. If you find this interview useful, please share it on your social media and tell your friends who might be interested. Thanks.
Tracking, Mixing, and Mastering
In the days before tape recording, records had to be made “live,” with the performance going directly to a master lacquer disc. In the 1950s, when recording to tape became possible, the mastering step could be detached from recording, but the performance was still captured live.
When multitrack tape became universal in studios in the 1960, the concept of mixing after recording emerged.
In the decades that followed, many engineers chose to specialize in one of the three steps made possible by the technology. Some were tracking engineers, who captured the performance. Mixers specialized in creatively combining the tracks, and a mastering engineer did the transfer from the master mix tape to lacquer disc master.
This specialization has only increased in the digital age. And, for the most part, it is beneficial for our profession. It works because some of us love to capture the music, but have no interest in mixing it. Others find working with artists, which can sometimes be very stressful, unappealing and prefer to work on their own, just mixing.
And with the rise of digital formats for the consumer, what need was there for a mastering engineer? Well, the mastering engineers re-invented their craft and used their talents to enhance the recording.
The mixing and mastering steps also became opportunities to fix imperfections that should have been addressed in the original recording.
In this episode, I suggest that perhaps some of us should consider returning to the original concept of making a record with one engineer doing all three steps. This is likely to be a small segment of our engineering community, but “mastering” all aspects of recording might make better recordings.
In this short episode, I describe the process I went through on a recent recording project. We were recording a harpsichord, an instrument I had some experience recording, but never before as a solo instrument in the studio.
We were recording a Bach Fantasy and Fugue piece, played by George Hazelrigg. George has been playing harpsichord all his life, although the piano is his main instrument these days.
It took us about ten hours of experimenting to get the sound we wanted. I describe the process.
Although you may never have occasion to record a harpsichord like this, you might still find the process I went through useful.
In the podcast, I mention a video we did that describes our technique for recording grand piano. Here is the link to that video:
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Most of us record in studios of various types. But sometimes it is necessary, or advantageous, to record on location.
I’ve had a studio most of my career, but in the early days, I recorded entirely on location. More recently, before I built my present studio, I did quite a few location recordings, in many types of venues. Some were concert halls, theaters, or sports arenas, but many were in churches, community spaces, outside, or even in people’s homes.
Those location recordings taught me a lot about acoustics, mic placement, and dealing with unforeseen obstacles.
Although location recording will most likely be of a performance, sometimes it is desirable to record in a area that has more room, or better acoustics for a particular piece of music. Or maybe you just need a larger/better space to record horns, strings, or a choral background vocal.
In this episode, I share some of my experiences of recording outside the studio.
If you have any suggestions for future podcast topics, please let me know. I am sometimes surprised by the response to a particular episode. Predicting what you like is a bit of a challenge. So please let me know what interests you.
And any comments or suggestions are always welcomed. Please subscribe to this podcast on any of the 30 providers that carry it. Thanks.
My take on Doug’s Podcasts
Doug's podcasts are always full of useful information for anyone interested in, or also into, studio recording.
They are very well prepared, deeply thought out and, as is obvious in the case of Doug, well recorded.
Oh wow - this is a diamond
Having used Fear. Equipment for many years, I was amazed to see Doug had a podcast. It is glorious! In 19 minutes, the knowledge he dropped in the “The Room Wgere the Music Is Recorded”, is the most condensed, well explained acoustics 101 commentary I’ve seen. Fantastic!
Sonic Greatness is Timeless
I especially enjoyed the Interview episode with Mike Miller. As much as Doug Fearn is a hero in the pursuit of sonic excellence, it was great to hear about Mike’s journey to hear music as it exists in his head. Mike explains his path of learning audio engineering by books and YouTube and in isolation before finally finding mentors to collaborate with and “just doing the work.”