Readers' Letters: Why doesn't your equalizer have a side chain input? If it did, what would you do with it?, and more...

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of

Thursday November 30, 2006

In response to Why doesn't your equalizer have a side chain input? If it did, what would you do with it?, Calebmeansquality writes...

I can think of two types of devices which act like equalizers with sidechain inputs, buddy.

One would be a multi-band compressor, the kind mastering engineers use. these adjust the volume of each prescribed frequency band in a signal separately (you could trigger this compression from a side chain for fun and profit).

The other is a vocoder which acts like a side chained multi-band expander/gate whith lots and lots of frequency bands.

Have Fun!

RP response: Well, the multi-band compressor is a compressor, not an equalizer. But it does as a side-effect tend to change the frequency balance. This can be used creatively. As for the vocoder... yes, you're right! It is a true side-chain device.

In response to Do I need permission to make a remix of a record?, L. Diamond writes...

I just read your article "Do I need permission to make remix of a record?" and was wondering if the legal aspects also apply to educational studies. For instance, if I were to have my middle school students make remixes and post them on our class website, could I be in danger of copyright infringement?


RP response: The best answers are to be be found at the Harry Fox Agency. Legal issues are always minefields, and they are the experts.

In response to Can you be artist, engineer and producer all at the same time?, Kevin Wicker writes...

Yes you can do it yourself, out of your home or office, and make a living from it -- rivaling the bigger dogs!I'm in Nashville doing it..eighteen years FULL TIME of it!

I started playing several instruments at a young age, producing my own originals from my little makeshift home studio before I was 16 years old.(Some of you remember the Sound-On-Sound machines?)

I had to do my research. I had a passion for the recording studio years earlier when I made my first record as a young artist of 8 years old (37 years ago).

So it took a while to reach the level where I am now.

But once you learn the basics, and do the best with what you have in your hands, you can come out with competitive product. It only takes practice and consistency.

REMEMBER ONE THING: Having the latest and greatest gadgets DO NOT make a competitive producer!! No matter what technology comes up with, it all boils down to the EARS and the CHOPS! There's no getting around it. (Ask George Martin!)

My works have spanned the globe. Did I gain the credit I deserved? No. But the track record and reputation I've created has comfortably sustained my buisness as a utility guru, simply by word of mouth.(Yes, word gets around fast in Nashville.)

If you've got the chops, the ears, and a bit of business savvy, you can pull it off.

I'm not the only one in town doing it either. So, yes, it is possible to be a one-man operation -- especially today with the new technology.

(But can you really rival the bigger dogs? Absolutely.)

If you've got the talent (#1), if you're willing to work hard, listen and learn, know your gear, gain experience, and not become a real horses arse in the process -- you'll be winging it, just like the rest of us.

In response to Why do old people listen to old music? - Take 2, Anthony writes...

Woah dude,

What does a rant about the over produced product aspect of todays music industry have to do with this cultural phenomenon?

Honestly, there's still good music out there today if you want to look for it. It doesn't take much to cut through all the crap and find some stuff you can connect with. There's still BRILLIANT musicians, making incredible EMOTIVE music, of all kinds, across all aspects of the human condition.

In response to Why do old people listen to old music? - Take 2, Vic Spark writes...

I one hundred percent agree guys with real musical talent are being overlooked for sensation seeking "artists " (I use the term loosely) who are reconised more for what they have done to shock the public and get in the media than to entertain them. have a look at Tim Pitman just put the name in google or you tube and he is still as yet unsigned the system stinks, same old story not what you know but who you know.

In response to Why are you recording at home when a pro studio would do a better job? - Take 2, Louis Hone writes...

It's easy to confuse the issues here. Maybe you did go to a pro studio but the producer is NOT the studio. For example if you rent Abbey Road, you will get a top studio with top gear and they will provide you with a top engineer. They won't provide you with a producer. That is your job or that of the record company that has signed you up.

So it seems to me that you ended up with a psudo-producer who would have provided you with an unpleasant experience in any studio, be it world-class or garage. A good engineer in a good studio will help you achieve your project but not take over your creative ideas. At least that's the way I always have worked.The purpose of a real studio is to take your mind off the technical side of things so that you will be able to focus on the artistic-musical side (remember the left brain right brain theory).

In a home studio when you are ready to record your song and your ProTools screws up, then you have to switch roles and try to fix the problem and by the time you've found the culprit you don't feel like recording anymore. In a real studio, the engineer's job is to take care of all the technical side of things as well as providing creative input when it is sollicitated.

To use a crude example, if your first sexual encounter was deceiving, did that stop you forever from trying again ? Same with the studio - find a good one, meet the engineer ahead of time to see if there is a genuine connection and enjoy. If you don't like the vibe, don't go there. There's plenty of other choices.

Good luck!

In response to Why do old people listen to old music? - Take 2, Avi (Mess-in-CA) writes...

It's so true that I could cry.

There is nothing new in music since about 1980 (even Rap/Hip-Hop is not a new genre).

Current music sounds so dull and flat as if life was sucked out of it. Moreover, it all sounds the same. There is no innovation, no sparkle in the sound, no ingenuity in tunes or in lyrics. It's all so arranged, so perfectly dead and stencil formulated that I could vomit. I am always surprised to walk into a dealer store and find the youngsters there listening to Fleetwood Mac or some other long forgotten band.

I stopped buying CDs about 12 years ago long before file sharing came to reality.

I blame it all on the greedy labels and MTV. Indeed video killed music because musicaudio and video don't fit together as they 'talk' to different senses. What a loss!

Where is that band that brings music into life? Please let me know.

In response to Question – "Can I record audio by plugging into my computer's audio input?", Kevin Schroeder writes...

I have run into the exact same thing on my own computer. I used to run a mic into the microphone in on my SB Audigy using an XLR to 1/8inch adapter. I recently bought an E-MU 0202 USB interface for miking and also doing DI for my guitar and the difference was worth the $80 or whatever it cost me. Should have done it a while ago.

In response to Why are you recording at home when a pro studio would do a better job? - Take 2, Lanny Papp writes...

I heard this particular article loud and clear! I've also heard recordings that came out of "professional" studios that sounded positively mediocre - even after being "mastered". This just goes to show that a big, glitzy, over-equipped recording studio and all of its personnel isn't necessarily going to give you the best bang for your buck. It's unfortunate that most musician/songwriters may find themselves at the mercy of a mega-studio and the egomaniacal wannabes who run it, but it can also be a valuable learning experience. Take what knowledge you can from it and invest in your own recording facility. Nowadays, a couple thousand dollars worth of computer, a few good microphones and the willingness to read and comprehend some hefty owners manuals will go a long way.

In response to Why do old people listen to old music? - Take 2, Tom writes...

Totally agree! Could not say it better!

The artists listed were true musicians, composers, vocalists, etc. Masters of their trade! and their music still lives on.

In response to Got a laptop? Wondering why you can't get enough tracks?, John DuMont writes...

I'm sure there will be enough comments on this one, but I'll add my two cents. Many current models of laptop computers have 5400 RPM drives as standard, and 7200 RPM units are available at a slight premium in price. I've retrofitted my old Toshiba (originally a 20GB 4200RPM drive) with a 160GB 7200RPM drive. The difference is astounding. Another important factor when choosing a hard drive is the size of the buffer. Drives today typically have 2, 8, or 16MB buffer sizes, larger being better. The cost difference is usually only a few dollars. On top of that, I also use your recommendation of external USB drives which works very well. It continues to amaze me that combining a laptop, an audio interface such as the M-Audio Pre USB, a pair of condenser mics, and some simple software will give you a very nice portable recording system that will run for perhaps several hours, no AC line power required.

In response to Why do old people listen to old music? - Take 2, Bernard Whitty writes...

Couldn't agree more. Nice to hear someone talking sense. DOWN WITH DUMBING DOWN.

In response to Why do old people listen to old music? - Take 2, Keith writes...

Thanks to Tom for such a great answer. He is so on-spot that little could be added to his response.

At 50 years old, I listen to a wide range of music of most genres. There is some good stuff in the 'new' music, but there is so much poorly done music to cull out to get to the good.

The youth of today are even listening to the old music. One - because their elders listen to it and Two - because they can hear the originality of the classic hits and they enjoy it.

Thanks again to Tom and David for a great answer and newsletter.


In response to Why are you recording at home when a pro studio would do a better job? - Take 2, Pink writes...

Once again proving you should carefully research any place you intend to throw money at.

To me, the ONLY reasons to go to a better studio than mine is for recording drums and vox, and final mixing and mastering...

All the production of everything else I can do here, at as good a fidelity or better than most of the studios in the area, and save all that wasted money dealing with less than professionals in these "professional" studios, but myself better quality gear with the bread, and probably still have $$ left over for a sack of mother nature's kine-est.

Not to mention, i cna get more done faster here, as all my gear that I normally (or wouldn't normally) use is here...all my instruments, hundreds of effects both rack and stomp, and literally thousands of software based effects..

Often far more verstility than the better local studios here have.

ya know, when it's a good thing you got a laptop with ya so ya can google an engineer the charts for the gear they have that they are clueless about, that kinda speaks volumes, to me...

I have done better with stuff being recorded right here at KamiKazeeHome (where one take! all you get!) than at any other studios I have ever worked at or paid for.

I think folks need to understand that you need to do as much preproduction as possible at home, and bring that stuff with you....and save all that money for some nice genelec monitors or something (I love my blue sky eXo's, and they are affordable crisp and loud...if something sounds good on them, it sounds BETTER on good speakers....lieke the ones in the last studio I worked in.)

In response to Why are you recording at home when a pro studio would do a better job? - Take 2, Geoff Barnard Scottish Borders writes...

Problems shared = problems halved.

I have had similar studio hang ups but in the long term I believe I have become a more understanding song writer/singer.

Not being what I term a pro performer I have to try whatever it takes to produce a good quality sound demo of vocals and sound in order to allow the listner to evaluate the material so home vocals and basic guitar are the starting point then studio pro mixing and so on.

When you find a good studio you must listen to the ideas but keep your own interests at the heart.

So both ways works fine just mix 'em and utilize the best of both worlds.

remember its your songs your / work /your heart and your aspiration your cash that is commanding the situation.

So if it all works fine or dissapoints then pick up the best bits and do it all over again.

Don't ever give in. If a song is worth doing it's noticed somewhere. Keep on keeping it on guys. Have a great and fun 2008.

Enjoy enjoy



In response to The MP3 player is dead - here's what is about to replace it, Rik Taylor writes...

Brilliant. Loved this article. For those whose complained about it only shows that more humour is needed in this industry of ours. I have heard of another means of audio reproduction called 'reel to reel' tape but it seems only a select few recording studios have 'upgraded' to this, but I doubt it will catch on.

Thanks David

In response to Why are you recording at home when a pro studio would do a better job?, Michael D. St.Clair writes...

Over the years I have worked and produced in many 'Pro' and sometimes not so 'Pro' studio's. Basically, there is not much difference between the two if your 'stuff' and 'attitude' are not ready and prepared for 'the recording session day' There is absolutely no point in recording anything unless you are totally rehearsed. Certainly it is a complete waste of time and resources to use any studio as a rehearsal facility.

In the words of Earnest Hemingway "It is good to be lucky, but better to be exact, then when luck comes along you are ready". So my advice is, seek out the best equipment for your home studio, learn the product well and engineer yourself in a position whereby you can zoom in and out of a great pro studio with a great end result. You should adopt the 'comfortable & quiet attitude' that the 'pro studio engineer' works for you, you after all are in charge of your musical destiny, certainly not an engineer you may never meet again in your life at whatever there are engineers and engineers...

There is no set formula to what makes a hit, "who knows what that is"? However there is a set formula to recording a hit, TALENT/PREPARATION/ORGANISATION & TENACITY plus a dash of LUCK.


Mikey D!

In response to Why are you recording at home when a pro studio would do a better job?, Arnie Davidson writes...

Regarding Home Studios vs Pro Studios. There is no disputing the technical advantage of a Pro Studio. I have a Home Studio and I use it to explore sounds, and to "sharpen my saw" in the craft of creating music. As I gain comfort with some of the recording techniques and tools (I'll never be a pro engineer)I gain the confidence to explore sound, to break rules of the trade (often through ignorance) and to (sometimes) almost perfectly connect the sounds in my head with the music from my monitors.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone, and after a few words they began nodding, finishing your sentences, and "relating" to what they thought you might say. How frequently this happens, and the listener imposes their own idea of what you meant instead of really listening to your idea.

The same is often true in a studio. With hundreds of hours invested in recording, all of that engineer's music background becomes a blur of experience that gets imposed on the individual, YOU, that has arrived for recording. The recording process often becomes a process of 'smoothing out' your original creative idea, to merge it into the blur of cold technical excellence and to make it mesh with the engineer's collective music knowledge.

So... I suggest that the important piece with an engineer or producer is that they get to know YOU, and your music. Hopefully, at least with a producer, they will REALLY LIKE your music and resonate with it from a place close to your own.

The Pro Studio danger lies, in my opinion, in arriving without this recording professional's CONNECTION to your music. I would suggest an hour of interview time with the engineer or producer, to find this chemistry and connection before the clock starts running. If someone "gets' your music, you will know it! And the resulting sound will be a mirror of your own soul.

In response to Why are you recording at home when a pro studio would do a better job?, Mr.Will writes...

I hear exactly what you are saying with the article. I think you are totally right for listing those reasons - another one is COMFORT and further GETTING A GOOD PERFORMANCE on your recording.

Its easy to become overwhelmed in a "pro" studio with all the pro gear, equipment and engineer with a million times your experience. I am from the school that says a brilliant performance where you shine is worth more than a well recorded version where you are self concious and a little un-nerved by the environment.

On the other side I think you make the best overall job with whatever resources you have to hand. I dont actually record in home studios. Well, alot of ideas and demos go down on a humble soundcard and cubase, but I use a really great studio for the "proper" thing. My ears can tell when something is recorded through proper mic's in a well accoustically treated room.

I prefer to mix away from the studio though, back on cubase with all the plug in's I feel comfortable with.

Check it - the first track there "champion" has been done in this way.

Thanks for your great articles!


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