Saturday, May 30, 2015
Friday, May 29, 2015
Inside Track | Secrets Of The Mix EngineersPeople + Opinion : Artists / Engineers / Producers / Programmers
Paul Simon's album So Beautiful Or So What is a dazzling return to form — and a return to working with production legend Phil Ramone.
The So Beautiful Or So What album marked a return to a more traditional approach to songwriting from Paul Simon.The So Beautiful Or So What album marked a return to a more traditional approach to songwriting from Paul Simon.
Paul Simon has called his most recent album, So Beautiful Or So What, "the best thing I've done in 20 years”, and it's a verdict that has been shared by critics and the record‑buying public alike. The album blends the melodic singer‑songwriter approach of his earlier career with the world music influences that have graced much of his work since Graceland. In interviews, Simon has explained that Graceland marked the beginning of him writing songs to rhythmic backing tracks, and that on the new album he wanted to write songs the way he did when he started, just him singing with an acoustic guitar, and then adding the rhythms and ethnic instruments later on. There's also extensive use of samples on the new album, while its sparsely arranged, delicate sound is perhaps a reaction to its dense‑sounding predecessor, Surprise, which saw Simon's songs blended with Brian Eno's electronic treatments.
So Beautiful Or So What finds Simon reunited with legendary producer Phil Ramone, who worked on earlier classics such as There Goes Rhymin' Simon and Still Crazy After All These Years, and also on Simon & Garfunkel's famous The Concert In Central Park (1982). The 15‑time Grammy‑winning Ramone is also known for his work with household names such as Billy Joel, Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Elton John and Paul McCartney, and on So Beautiful Or So What, was teamed with long‑time Paul Simon engineer Andy Smith. Smith is a New York city‑based freelance engineer who has worked on several of Simon's projects over the years, as well as projects with Simon's wife Edie Brickell and her current band, the Gaddabouts.
Phil Ramone's association with Paul Simon goes back to his classic 1973 album There Goes Rhymin' Simon.Phil Ramone's association with Paul Simon goes back to his classic 1973 album There Goes Rhymin' Simon.
The recording process began several years ago, in a room in a cottage at Simon's property in Connecticut. "I think it was the first time that the bulk of one of Paul's albums was recorded in his own studio,” says Andy Smith. "The cottage was initially an empty house, and we gradually built the studio up as the project went along. We didn't record all the time. We'd have a month off here and there, and during that time, we'd do upgrading to the studio. By the end of the project, we had a pretty well‑equipped small studio, with a decent mic collection including the Bock Audio 251s, various high‑voltage DPA mics, Royer R1221V, SF24 and 121s, as well as the basics like Neumann, Shure, Sennheiser, AKG; mic pres by Telefunken, Great River, Grace, Chandler and API; compressors by Purple Audio, Chandler, API and Teletronix; Pro Tools HD with plug‑ins by Izotope, Massenburg, Sound Toys, Eventide, Sonnox and Audio Ease; two Apogee AD16X's and one DA16x converters; Antelope Audio master clock; and Adam S3A monitors. All the wiring was done with Mogami cables, and one of the coolest features is that there's a Grace 902 headphone amplifier at each player location.
"Paul previously owned a lot of studio gear, which gave us a good starting point for his new cottage studio. There was some gear of my own collection that Paul often used when we recorded in proper studios, and that we duplicated for his private studio. There was also a lot of floating gear that we would use when recording out in his summer place in Long Island, NY, and that found a home in his cottage studio. We did do a little recording of the album in Long Island this time around, but much less than on previous albums. The main challenge in working in his cottage studio was that it is not acoustically treated in any way, so on several occasions I had to use Izotope RX software to get rid of extraneous noises. For example, there's an oak tree right above the cottage, and occasionally acorns would fall on the roof. Because the studio wasn't soundproofed, I had to remove these noises with software. RX easily becomes one of those pieces of software that you can't imagine how you ever got along without.”
The process was very different from Simon's previous album, Surprise, which had been recorded in eight major studios in New York, London, Nashville and Los Angeles, as well as, recalls Smith, "the home studio in New York that Paul had at the time, where we recorded some of his vocals.” Phil Ramone, who became involved in the recording of So Beautiful Or So What during the last year of recording, explains the psychological challenges involved in working at home. "When Paul recorded albums like Still Crazy and Graceland, he would book a studio room out for months. It was a discipline, because it put a certain kind of pressure on you because of the money involved, whereas when people use home studios, the discipline disappears in some cases. But there are only three big studios left in New York now! So many people now work in their own studio, and it's important to keep a certain schedule. Paul McCartney will come into his studio at 10am and will stop at 6pm and Paul [Simon] kind of does the same thing. There was a nice atmosphere in the working at Paul's studio and having the discipline to go with it. It turned out to be a really comfortable situation for Paul, Andy and I. Paul and I are old friends, so I was very happy when he asked me to work with him on this project. I love opening doors that he may not have thought of, and his mind is so fertile. It was a joy. Paul and I live close to each other, which meant that I could come over when needed, and also do other projects. We spent a lot of time driving in the car, listening to what we had done and deciding what needed doing next.
"In many cases, Paul had 20‑30 percent of the songs ready when he came into the studio, at least a melody and some chord changes, and then we'd look for what colours and lyrics should go with it. Once the song started to work well, it would invite the tempo and the nature of the song after it, because Paul was already thinking of the sequence of the songs on the album before he had written all the songs. He was exploring different things, like, for example bluegrass influences, and we recorded a group of bluegrass musicians at Tony Bennett's studio in New Jersey. Paul asked the players how they would play this or that and pushed them to do a lot of interesting things. Also, Gil Goldstein orchestrated 'Love And Hard Times', and we went to Avatar Studios to record that, because I wanted a bigger room.”
Smith elaborates: "Working on this album was different than previous albums I'd done with Paul, because this time he had an idea of how each song would be before we started recording in the studio. With previous albums, he'd first build an extensive backing track, and then he'd take those recordings and see how they would inspire him to write guitar parts, and eventually melodies and lyrics to them. However, this time he pretty much wrote the songs and then came to the studio to record. Paul would usually start out by making a click track using a percussion instrument, or even just tapping out a rhythm on his guitar — he rarely uses an electronic click-track — then he'd play a guitar part that he'd already written and build the song from there. Usually the next step would be to overdub more guitars and percussion. I think it would surprise some people how complete some of the tracks sounded before any other musicians were added. Besides playing the majority of the guitars, a decent amount of the core percussion on the album was played by Paul. In the song 'Rewrite', the main percussion part you hear throughout the song is Paul's guitar‑tapping 'click track'.”
Out With The Bass
Andy Smith has been Paul Simon's engineer of choice for many years, and helped to set up the singer‑songwriter's Connecticut home studio. This shot was taken at Germano Studios, where percussion and vocals were overdubbed. Andy Smith has been Paul Simon's engineer of choice for many years, and helped to set up the singer‑songwriter's Connecticut home studio. This shot was taken at Germano Studios, where percussion and vocals were overdubbed.
According to Ramone, the arrangements and overdubbing process were framed by Simon's desire that So Beautiful Or So What would "not sound like a studio album. He wanted to have lots of space with lots of atmosphere and feeling, so rather than go for hugely orchestrated ideas he was going, for example, for overtones in bells and gongs. Or if a sax or a kora comes in, they're there to do something specific, and not to fill in the space. One of the results was that there's very little bass on the album. Most modern records are bass‑heavy, and that eats up a lot of the space. It can be a struggle to work with a singer‑songwriter who plays heavy piano and then the guitar and the bass play right in the same audio range. Paul was very happy not having much bass on the album, until the point when he went out to play these songs live, for which he does use a bass. But it's not huge and fat, it's more part of an organic guitars section. Paul also liked a certain drum sound that's not in your face. We added other instruments as we needed them, and then decided what to use and what not to use. These additions and subtractions are very much the way Paul loves to work.”
Smith adds: "There certainly was an attempt on this album to keep the arrangements simple. There's a bass on a couple of tracks, but it's actually a baritone guitar. There was a conscious effort not to have bass, though when the songs were completely constructed and arranged, Paul did invite in some bass players, but he didn't like the way it affected the simplicity of the arrangements. By that stage, he had grown attached to the transparency of the sound of the tracks. Bells certainly were Paul's favourite percussion instrument on this album. He has a large collection of bells, ranging from exotic bells and ancient hand bells to glockenspiels. He'd record an acoustic or electric guitar and he'd then highlight certain notes by putting bells very faintly behind certain notes to give them some sparkle. We would effect the bells, to make them sound like one with the guitar, or in some cases effect them to be their own thing, such as the pulsating high sound at the beginning of 'Love Is Eternal Sacred Light'. There are also several tracks that have a standard drum kit, but Paul usually wanted them to sound a bit different. On many of the tracks, Jim Oblon, the drummer, placed towels over each drum so they'd have more of a muffled quality, leaving more room for the higher‑frequency percussion stuff.”
In an interview with the American web site AV Club, Simon explained the reasoning behind this: "I keep trying to eliminate those sounds that I don't like. Like on this record, I said, 'I really don't like most of the echo sounds that I hear coming out of the technology.' So I started using bells, and the decaying sound of bells behind lines. It sort of sounded like an echo, but with a strange tonality, and it created a sound that was atmospheric — and that is what I was looking for.”
Smith continues: "Much of the material was recorded in the main room that you see in the CD inlay tray [see photo on first spread], although his photos were taken after the recordings and during rehearsals. But for a large part of the time, Paul would be playing in the control room, with just Phil and I present. If he played electric guitar, we'd have the amplifier in another room, but the acoustic guitars he'd do right in front of us, which made it easy to communicate. For two songs, 'The Afterlife' and 'Getting Ready For Christmas Day', the track was laid down with Paul playing guitar in the control room, while we had a drummer in the main room. We would spend a decent amount of time getting the guitars that Paul played how he wanted them, and after Paul had laid down all his tracks, there was a smaller amount of experimentation with other musicians trying out parts. If the parts interested Paul, he would later edit and comp them to how he liked them, or in some cases they would get scrapped altogether. I'd make him a CD each evening of what we'd done, and he'd typically come back the next day with a list of notes. During a project, it seems like he never stops working. Throughout, Paul was thinking very much in terms of the whole album. He starts sequencing an album when he has a few tracks, and figuring out what holes need to be filled and how the songs flow into each other. That's always been the case for as long as I've worked with him.”
While most of So Beautiful Or So What was recorded at Simon's cottage studio, the company also went elsewhere for specific overdubs. Specifically, these involved a month in Simon's Long Island studio; Clinton Studios in NY to record the Indian ensemble on 'Dazzling Blue'; Tony Bennett's studio to record Mick Rossi on piano and the bluegrass ensemble featuring Doyle Lawson, Quicksilver and Joshua Swift; Avatar to record an orchestral ensemble consisting of strings, flutes, English horn and clarinet; and Germano Studios in NYC for various overdubs, including percussion and vocals.
Print And Be Damned
Paul Simon's guitar playing took a more prominent role on So Beautiful Or So What than on his other recent albums.Paul Simon's guitar playing took a more prominent role on So Beautiful Or So What than on his other recent albums.
As Smith explains, most of the prominent effects on the album were recorded with the source. "When we began work on So Beautiful Or So What, I didn't know where we would be at the end, and who would be mixing it, so I figured that it would be good to put all the analogue colouring on during recording, before going into Pro Tools, and not to count on having lots of mix options in the end. Also, in recording with effects, Paul could be inspired by those effects while playing and arranging. So many of his guitar parts went through pedals, like the Moogerfoogers, a Carl Martin compressor, [Electro‑Harmonix] Deluxe Memory Man, pedals by Fulltone, and so on, as well as some plug‑ins. We'd print it all — the plug‑ins on a separate track. We were also lucky in that the natural ambience of the room in the cottage was quite good, so I used a lot of room mics. The spaces that you can hear are mostly the sound of the room. Paul also made quite a bit of use of the relatively new Moog guitar. The sounds of that instrument worked well with the other sounds on the album. When recording, we put all the mic pres close to the players, so that we only had very short cables going from the mics to the mic pres. I used all Mogami cables for the mics and from the mic pres straight to the Apogee converters and then into Pro Tools. No patchbay or desk was used — we only had an eight‑channel Euphonix controller for the occasional fader ride. Once we were in digital we, for the most part, remained in digital.”
Smith explains that Simon was "very involved” in the technical side of the whole recording process, adding, "He might not know the exact names of all the mics and preamps and compressors, but he'll ask for specific sounds, and he'll often try different distances to the mics. He likes to experiment with how much room sound to incorporate for certain overdubs. For example, sometimes when recording a shaker, he'd ask me to put the mic at the other side of the room, so it gives the effect of a shaker going during a live recording.
"The electric guitars were mostly recorded with the tube ribbon Royer R122V, then going into a Telefunken V72 [preamp], then a Purple Audio MC77 [compressor] going into the Apogee AD16X — we think it sounds better than the Avid converters. The MC77 is an update of the MC76, which is based on the 1176, and I actually, in most cases, prefer the MC77 to the original 1176. It sounds a bit cleaner to me, and therefore works with a larger variety of sounds than the original 1176 does. I don't generally use the compression for control of dynamics, but more for a little bit of colour. Paul likes the colour of compression. When recording electric, I would also often put a microphone, like the Bock Audio 251, in front of the strings, so you can hear the sound of the pick against the strings. We'd record that separately, and blend the two sounds later. There's one song, 'Love & Blessings', in which we removed the amp sound completely, so you have just this thin sound of the pick on the electric‑guitar strings.
"The way we recorded the acoustic guitars varied. Paul has many guitars, so that could determine what mic we used. Sometimes I'd use the DPA high‑voltage mics, like the 4003 small‑diaphragm, or the 4041T2 large‑diaphragm tube mic. I usually place the microphone aimed at the 12th fret. The DPAs are omnidirectional mics, so you can get right up close to the guitar and get all the subtleties of the playing without having to worry about the proximity effect. Some of the high‑voltage mics have their own power supply, and some require specific 130V mic pres, for which we use both Grace and Millennia mic pres. They typically went directly into the Purple Audio compressor or sometimes an LA2A, or API, or a Chandler LTD compressor. Again, we used compression for colour. Paul also used many of his pedals when playing his acoustic, going to an amp, and we would later on sometimes re‑amp guitar tracks, putting them through some guitar pedals. We did the same with the clarinet track in 'Love & Blessings', to give some kind of old, quirky quality.
"As I mentioned before, we used the Soundelux 251, now called Bock Audio, on Paul's voice, going into the Telefunken V76, and then the Purple Audio or an LA2A, in some cases both. For the backing vocals recorded at Bennett studios we mainly used [Neumann] U87s and Neve 1073 mic pres. The Indian ensemble was recorded with Schoeps, Sennheisers and some DPA 4003s as room mics. For the Indian ensemble, we had the instruments Paul was unsure of in iso booths, so Paul later had no problem stripping the ensemble down to just three players. The kora was recorded with two DPA 4003s, one near the top and one near the bottom. The percussion was recorded with a large variety of mics, based on what percussion was played. In some cases, a dynamic mic worked better, or we would use whatever mic was right in front of him. Sometimes we recorded in stereo, with Paul doing the panning physically, by moving the percussion instrument around to where he wanted it in the sound image. On the basic drum kit, the miking is usually a [AKG] D112 or a [Sennheiser] 421 on the inside of the kick and a [Neumann] FET 47 on the outside, a Shure 57 Tab‑Funken [an SM57 with a replacement transformer] on the top and bottom of the snare, a DPA 4012 on the hi‑hat, Coles 4038 as mono overhead, stereo overheads with two DPA 4003s, and an omni somewhere between the rack tom, kick and the snare which I blend with the overheads. The majority of the drum sound is coming from the omnis. The flutes and violin were recorded using the Royer R122V tube ribbon mic.”
'Getting Ready For Christmas Day'
The Pro Tools Session for 'Getting Ready For Christmas Day'. The 10 topmost tracks are for Jim Oblon's muffled drum kit. Immediately beneath them, in green, is the sample of the sermon that inspired the song, and below that, Paul Simon's lead vocal. Apart from that, the main contributions are a tremoloed acoustic guitar (light green) and an electric guitar, miked both at the amp and the strings. The Pro Tools Session for 'Getting Ready For Christmas Day'. The 10 topmost tracks are for Jim Oblon's muffled drum kit. Immediately beneath them, in green, is the sample of the sermon that inspired the song, and below that, Paul Simon's lead vocal. Apart from that, the main contributions are a tremoloed acoustic guitar (light green) and an electric guitar, miked both at the amp and the strings. Phil Ramone & Andy Smith: So Beautiful So WhatWritten by Paul SimonProduced by Phil Ramone and Paul Simon
Phil Ramone: "This song was recorded early on in our work on the album, certainly early from the moment I joined. It set the direction of the album in that the sermon [the song uses a sample from a 1941 sermon by the Reverend JM Gates] inspired Paul to write the song, and so it wasn't typical of him looking to rhythmic patterns for inspiration. The sermon had a musicality in the speech that inspired Paul, and the result is really unusual, in that everything is cohesive between the melody, the sample, the rhythm, and Paul's voice telling the story from an observer's point of view. With the sermon in the song, it felt like it was timeless. It's a sound that catches your ear.
"Paul will come up with things that come from an absolute leftfield corner, and you wonder what brought it on. He listens, he researches, and then something will come along like a bolt of lightning. The rhythmic structure of the sermon kicked off a whole bunch of interesting things throughout the album. The way Paul hears eighth and 16th notes adds to the chordal and rhythmic feel. There's a lot of guitar on the album, and for this song Paul was messing with a vibrato thing on his guitar that he probably felt was part of an era. He played the acoustic rhythm guitar, and Vincent Nguini played the electric rhythm guitar, coming with a more West African approach to guitar, and the vibrato set up the whole way that those two rhythm guitars play off each other.”
Andy Smith: "I think 'Getting Ready' helped inspire a stripped‑down, rawer approach. There are foot‑stomps in the song that I think Paul liked the organic quality of, which opened up the rest of the album for similar sounds. Paul cut the backing track live, playing acoustic guitar, with Vincent Nguini on electric guitar and Jim Oblon playing drums. The footstomps were added by Paul, Jim, Vincent and whoever had shoes on right after the live drums and guitars were tracked. Paul was excited about the track, and the next day he came with the sermon and said: 'Let's see what this sounds like on top.' We just flew it in randomly, and the entire sermon was in rhythm with the backing track for the entire duration. We later tried to move it around a little, but never got it to sound as good as when we dropped it in, so what you hear on the record is where it was the first time we put it in. Paul then figured out breaks where he wanted to sing, and where we then muted the sermon.
"This song came together very quickly. Once we had the sermon in there and created the gaps for Paul to sing in, he added his vocals pretty quickly, and then added a guitar solo. After the few overdubs, the track remained pretty much the same. This song wasn't worked on as much as the others. The Session has the drums at the top. This was one of the songs on which Jim had various cloths over the drums to dampen them. Below that is the sermon, for which we did have to use some Izotope noise‑reduction software. We didn't do much else to it, other than chop things up so that the cheering fitted well between Paul's vocals. Below the sermon is Paul's lead vocal, and this has an Echoboy slap echo on it. We also added some to the sermon, to make it sound as if it was in the same room as Paul's voice. Below Paul's lead voice is a backing vocal track that he did, and then a backing vocal track by Edie Brickell, that she laid down pretty quickly.
"Below Edie's backing vocal is the acoustic guitar, which has a heavy tremolo effect from a plug‑in, with the depth set to 100 percent. We had to print the effect, because we later needed to shift the track a few milliseconds to get the feel that Paul wanted. Below that is the electric guitar, miked at the amp and right at the strings, to give it more of an acoustic quality. Then there are wind chimes, played by Paul, and his guitar solo, which was played on a Moog guitar. He likes to use that guitar because of the sustain it can give. Below the Moog guitar are the foot stomps, which I recorded with a FET 47 at the feet and above that a DPA 4003. We compressed them when going into Pro Tools, so that nothing needed to be done later to change their sound. There are two swooshy, percussive sounds you can hear at the end of the rhythmic phrase that are foot stomps that were re‑amped, with a lot of crunch on them. You can see the re‑amped foot stomps in the bottom of the edit window. There's also a sample of a locomotive in the song, slowed way down using Serato Pitch 'n Time, which ended up giving it that phasing effect. That's basically it. The song is pretty simple!” .
Paul Simon: Digital Advocate
The entire So Beautiful Or So What project was recorded to Pro Tools at 24‑bit, 96kHz. According to Andy Smith, Paul Simon embraced digital technology at a very early stage. "Paul was one of the early adopters of Pro Tools. We recorded Songs From The Capeman  to a Sony 3348 [digital multitrack tape machine] and then dumped everything digitally over to Pro Tools and mixed it in the box. That was very early on for a major artist to have an album mixed in Pro Tools. We recorded to DASH because at the time Pro Tools wasn't stable enough for tracking with a large band in the room. It's kind of funny now, but at the time we didn't tell anybody about mixing in Pro Tools because it was so new and there was initially some bias against it. You're The One  was mixed on a Sony Oxford console but recorded in Pro Tools, and with Surprise we locked a Pro Tools and a Logic system together during tracking, because Brian Eno likes to use Logic. Tchad Blake then mixed that album on an SSL desk. Besides being an amazing mixer, Tchad was brought in as a fresh pair of ears. There were so many overdubs on that album that it needed someone to make sense of them.”
Paul Simon and band in rehearsal for live shows, in the live room at his Connecticut home studio where much of the album was recorded. Paul Simon and band in rehearsal for live shows, in the live room at his Connecticut home studio where much of the album was recorded. Photo: Kevin Mazur
Phil Ramone is credited with mixing the album, and he explains that the tracks on So Beautiful Or So What were mixed as they went along, in a process that appeared to involve both him and Andy Smith, and even, on occasion, Paul Simon himself. Ramone: "We mixed during recording, so there would be no surprises. A lot of people, while making an album, keep waiting for that wonderful day when it all comes together in the mix. But we all have good and early knowledge of when things work, and if it doesn't, you get rid of stuff. Paul is not averse to starting again and trying to do better. I said: 'Look, we are capable of doing things now in the digital world that we couldn't do before,' and so we mixed as we went. Paul and I would often listen back in the car to judge where to take things.
"The way the mix situation worked was that I'd work with Andy on stuff, and then I'd leave him alone to get the tracks into shape, and I would finesse it. I would just reach over and do things — I always ask the engineer if that's a drag. In the world we live in, things are sometimes two‑handed and sometimes four‑handed, it depends how you look at it. And when you work in Pro Tools, you are, in effect, always working towards a final mix. I'd bought Paul that small Euphonix controller, so I could do vocal moves and things. Faders still work for me. There are two schools of thought, and you can do everything electronically, but for me it takes some of the spirit out of it when I don't make the moves with my hands. I'm not travelling anywhere now without that little mixer! There are things I can do with it that continue to make mixing feel like mixing to me. I don't want to be struggling for hours to get to a place by adjusting things 1/10th of a dB at a time.”
Andy Smith takes a more 21st-century view than Ramone. "A console and faders allow you to work faster, so when speed is an issue, like when tracking a live band, it can be an advantage. But with a project like Paul's that goes on for several years, speed is not an issue, and I'm happy to work in the box. Because I supplied Paul every evening with a CD of whatever we had done that day, we would every night attempt to make it sound as close to a finished track as we could. And by the end of the project, we found that the mixes were simply done. We didn't set out to use plug‑ins sparingly, we just used them when we needed them. The ambient effects, in addition to the natural room sound, are pretty much all done with plug‑ins, except for when we used analogue bucket‑brigade delays. We also applied the old trick of sending a track out to a Dolby unit to encode it, and then not decode it, to get a high sparkle, a sizzling sound. Paul particularly wanted to use this for a vocal section in 'Love Is Eternal Sacred Light', where Paul sings in a very low, deep voice, and the Dolby effect helped it to cut through.”
Both Ramone and Smith express their admiration for Roy Halee, who engineered and produced early Simon & Garfunkel albums and also several of Simon's solo albums. Smith explains, "When I worked with Roy, I was taught to engineer in the old‑school way, which was using mics and mic placement, rather than EQ, to get the sound with the frequencies and ambience you wanted, which leads to mixing mostly being a matter of balancing and panning. On this project, besides the natural ambience, a delay was often used to create ambience, as well as some plug‑in verbs. We didn't use any de‑essers. We did the now popular thing of just manually lowering the esses that are too loud. Also, having so little bass actually made the project a little more difficult, because the typical listener expects a full frequency range, and it was harder to make it sound like a finished album when there wasn't a great deal of low end. So at times we used EQ to try to pull a little bit more bottom end from things that normally don't have much low end, like certain percussion instruments or Paul banging on a guitar. The go‑to EQ for that sort of thing was the Massenburg MDW.
"I also want to mention that we used the dithered mixer in Pro Tools, which not that many people appear to use, but to our ears it sounds better than the non‑dithered mixer. Also, a lot of the sound sculpting/mixing was actually done by Paul. He has a clear vision of what he likes and he's been using Pro Tools for so long now that he speaks in tenths of decibels and will regularly ask for specific changes. So slowly, over the long lengths of the projects we've done, he has done a lot of the moulding of the mix himself. Then, one day after doing vocal overdubs and Paul doing a vocal punch‑in, he suddenly said, 'OK, it's done. What's next? Mastering?' And Phil said, 'Yes.' The album had arrived at the point where Paul wanted it to be.”
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Inside Track | Secrets Of The Mix EngineersPeople + Opinion : Artists / Engineers / Producers / Programmers
Fabian Marasciullo's mixes for the latest Lil Wayne album were so valuable he had to guard them at gunpoint.
Fabian Marasciullo.Fabian Marasciullo.
Top urban mix engineer Fabian Marasciullo first featured in Inside Track in August 2008 (/sos/aug08/articles/insidetrack_0808.htm), when he discussed his mix of Flo Rida and T-Pain's mega-hit 'Low'. As he repeatedly emphasises, much has changed since then. Marasciullo has moved from Miami to Los Angeles, although he continues to divide his time between the two cities, mixing in the Hit Factory Criteria's Studio A and Record Plant Studio 2 or 4; he's currently building his own studio in LA. More importantly, for this article at least, he asserts that both the context in which he mixes and his approach to mixing itself have changed dramatically.
Three years ago, Marasciullo asserted that mixing was "all about frequencies and pockets and spacing. I am very scientific when I mix, and I don't even listen to the song. I break things down to ones and zeros.” Today, he remarks, "Times have changed, man, and this relates directly to my technical delivery. My work has gone from people waiting in line to get their stuff mixed to the projects for which we are getting full rates being far and few between. In general I'm not being paid like I used to, and this means that I'm much more selective about the kind of projects that I mix. Three years ago I'd mix anything that came my way, but now I only do the stuff that I love and that really want to do. That means that I now have a whole different outlook on mixing. In picking and choosing what I'm going to work on, my work is much less like a factory churning things out, and much more about passion and creativity.”
Budgetary constraints mean that top mixers are being used more sparingly by labels. "I have guys at the record labels telling me, 'We're not mixing albums any more, we're just mixing singles.' One of the best-selling artists I have worked with, who has sold millions, has been told by his record company that they won't release albums by him any more, only singles. This means that the labels can get away with investing much less in people. On top, the next week there will be someone else who they have found on the Internet. But the public likes albums, if you give them great albums to listen to. Look at the success of Adele's albums. An album is a body of work, which will retain value for many years. But the labels don't think of what will happen in five years. Modern technology has also made labels and A&R people and even artists confused about what exactly engineers and mixers do. With Pro Tools getting cheaper and cheaper, suddenly everybody is an engineer, even a kid who is quick with a computer. And the labels' latest theory is: 'Nobody can hear the fucking difference anyway!' With the loudness wars and MP3 and the quality of people's stereos having gone down, this is, to some degree, correct. But I still think that if you record and mix something at 100 percent and then cut it down to 50 percent, it's still far better than recording at 60 percent and cutting down to 30 percent.”
2: This composite screen capture shows the entire Pro Tools Session for 'How To Love', cropped to remove a large area of blank space to the right of the Edit window! 2: This composite screen capture shows the entire Pro Tools Session for 'How To Love', cropped to remove a large area of blank space to the right of the Edit window!
Marasciullo's work on Lil Wayne's best-selling album Tha Carter IV suggests that when labels do dare to invest in albums rather than just singles, the results can be very worthwhile. Marasciullo mixed all but one of the 21 tracks that make up the album, and he and Wayne pulled out all the stops to deliver an album with the best possible sonic quality. Whether this is a direct result or not is up for debate, but Tha Carter IV sold close to a million in the first week after its release at the end of August, while its first single, '6 Foot 7 Foot', went double platinum, and the more recent single, 'How To Love', went platinum in a week.
'How To Love' marks quite a dramatic change of direction for Lil Wayne, being predominantly an acoustic guitar/vocal track with the rapper singing, accompanied by some very deep, spacy drums, and some synths mixed very low. With Wayne currently being hip-hop's leading artist, Marasciullo is certain that it marks a new trend in urban music in general. "Wayne called me and was really enthusiastic, saying, 'I got the record, we are going to win Grammys!' When I went over, he played the song to me, and was performing it in the room, his arms up in the air, singing at the top of his lungs. It was an inspiring moment. When listening, I immediately thought: 'This is a really different record for him.' It's very organic, earthy, musical, and the way I mixed it, it has a lot of top end in it. Until now it wasn't really OK for a hip-hop record to have that much high end. But not everything has to be centred around an 808! This song allowed me to use a lot of the techniques I learned in my early career, like when I worked with Bruce Swedien on Michael Jackson's Invincible and with Britney Spears, all these pop things. Wayne is the biggest rapper in the US and he's a trendsetter, and him releasing a song like this will allow other artists and labels to put songs like these out. The face of hip-hop is changing; it does not have to be a set thing any more. I promise you that you'll see a lot of 'How To Loves' pop up next year!”
Tha Carter Family
Marasciullo first worked with Wayne on his hit single 'Go DJ' from the rapper's fourth album Tha Carter (2004), and claims a small part in steering Wayne to the staggering success he currently enjoys. "He comes from the South, where it was common to have loads of vocal tracks on urban tracks. He'd have 10 or 12 tracks of screaming lead vocals, which could sound messy. So during the mix of 'Go DJ' we turned that down to one lead vocal, more in the New York style, and after that his career started going crazy. It was a good example of what a creative mix can do for an artist.”
Since then, Marasciullo has mixed a lot of Lil Wayne's stuff, including most of his best-selling album to date, the three-times-platinum Tha Carter III (2008), and the five-times-platinum single 'Lollipop', which won the pair a Grammy award each.
As is common in urban music, both Tha Carter III and IV employed a large collection of producers: Maestro, DJ Infamous, Bangladesh, Kanye West, Swizz Beatz, Cool & Dre, The Alchemist, Deezle and Jim Jonsin on III, and again Bangladesh and Cool & Dre, plus T-Minus, Willy Will, Polow da Don and more on IV. What's unusual is the reliance on a single mix engineer: Marasciullo. "Wayne is a very smart guy, and he understands the basics of putting an album together, top to bottom, including the importance of the mix. Wayne likes to work with a small, close circle of people around him. He records his vocals alone, with one engineer, Michael 'Banger' Cadahia, and he wanted me to mix all the songs. We are very close. He is the kind of artist who has the power to say: 'I have a picture in my head and I need Fabian to mix everything.' Luckily all the producers were cool with it. I actually mixed records before for most of them anyway, but there were a few for who I had never mixed, and they basically did not have a choice if they wanted their song on the album.
"Recordings for the album started a couple of years ago, but then Wayne had to go to jail [March 2010] and he continued work on it when he came out [November 2010]. We began mixing in May 2011 and continued until two weeks before the album was released [29 August, 2011]. If we'd had another two weeks, we'd have mixed for another two! Wayne was still not 100 percent satisfied with his performances, but it was time to turn it in. I mixed 27-28 songs in total. I had mixed Tha Carter III in the box, because we were going for an all-new sound, but the sound of IV as a whole is more organic, so I thought: 'Let's do it on the Neve at the Hit Factory Studio 1.' We had continuity, in that everything was mixed in that room, and I'd print stems of my mixes, and then I'd print the stereo mix to analogue tape. We did stuff that people don't really do any more, and I believe that you can hear it in the music. Also, with the studio culture dying on its feet, there are certain projects that have the budget to keep the lights on in studios for the rest of the year, and that's one consideration I had in going to a studio. I'm old school! But mainly this was a project in which we could really show what we can do, and do something different.”
Brighten The Load
Mixing Tha Carter IV in general, and 'How To Love' in particular, Marasciullo's working methods differed from those of three years ago, when he tended to begin a mix by working with the vocals and the producers' stereo roughs, and worked in the individual instrumental tracks later. "This time,” explains Marasciullo, "there was no set method, but in most cases I'd work with the whole session from the beginning. The main complication was that Wayne likes to challenge himself and always tries to do more and better. So even while I was mixing he wanted structures of songs changed and/or to add or replace vocals. This was one reason why the mixing took three and a half months [which averages about four days per song]. We were also always jumping between tracks. This was the challenging aspect of mixing on a board, because the Neve I was using doesn't even have recall. So I worked with stems, and my assistants kept it all together. Elizabeth Gallardo did most of that, and she really was the glue for the whole thing!
"When I began a mix, Wayne gave me his vocals, which he has recorded to the producer's two-track, and the producers would send me their full sessions. One issue that I'm increasingly dealing with these days is that I will get the sessions zero-ed out, meaning that all the effects are taken off. It aggravates me, because what am I going to do? Recreate what they did and then mix that? They've spent months putting effects on the track, and the artist has been living with this, so I prefer to start where they leave off. The engineer's job is to record and do a rough mix, and my job is to start with the rough mix, and then 'Go!' They come to me because of what I do, but I think it's super-important that I can start with what they have been hearing, whether it's right or wrong. If I can start with that they did and clean it up and then mix it, it saves me a lot of time.
"In the case of 'How To Love', Wayne had already done his vocals, and he didn't change them during the mix. He'd worked on this track a lot, it really was his baby, and his work was done. The producer [Noel 'Detail' Fisher] then sent me a file with all the individual tracks, and a rough mix which was very urban, very dark and muddy. But I saw it differently, and Wayne did too. In talking with him, I felt that he had a picture in his head of him sitting on stage with an acoustic guitar. It's not a rap record. I don't want to say that I wanted to do a pop mix, because that's a cliché, but I did want to make it as poppy as I could, while still making sure it would be respected when it's playing in the clubs. Spike Stent is one of my favourite mixers, and I love his top end, and so in a way I was aiming for a similar top end as he gets in his mixes. It's a different song for Wayne, and it works and is doing well on the radio. It is him being creative and he really is a rock star with this song. That's the direction he's going in.”
'How To Love'
Fabian Marasciullo: Recording Lil Wayne's 'How To Love'
Written by Lil Wayne, Noel Fisher, LaMar Seymour, LaNelle Seymour, Preyan, Marcus Boyd.
Produced by Noel Fisher and Drum Up.
"This track took only two days to mix, mainly because Wayne didn't make any changes to his vocals during the mix. My mix centred around two things: I wanted to capture the essence of Wayne with an acoustic guitar, which are the two most important things in the track, and I wanted to brighten the track, and get away from the darkness of the original mix, which had a lot of information between 800 and 1500Hz — even the guitar sounded very heavy. It was almost like they put a low-pass filter at 7500Hz. It was really dark, and they wanted it that way, even though the track doesn't have a bass guitar; the bass information comes from sustained 808 notes.
"Normally I begin my mixes by working on the drums, and then the vocals, but in this case I began with the guitar and the vocals. The whole thing was about making these two talk to each other and making sure they weren't getting in each other's way. I wanted them both to have equal impact, and had to do a lot of ducking on Wayne's vocals to make him fit with the guitar. They had chosen a very airy guitar and Wayne's vocal is in exactly the same range, so I did a lot of subtractive EQ, as well as adding some high end. Again, I had the image of Wayne performing alone with an acoustic guitar, and in my mind I could picture him at the VMA Awards, standing with a guitar and singing.
"Working on the backing track involved taking out a lot of lower-mid frequencies and adding high end. The final record has many extreme high and extreme low frequencies. After I'd balanced the vocals and the guitar, I brought the synth strings in. My challenge was to make them sound really big when they come in at the end, and for the song still to be about the vocal and the guitar. After I'd brought in the strings, I muted everything, and worked on the drums. Regardless of whether it's a pop record or not, Wayne's stuff will still be played in the clubs, so I went right to work on the 808 and the kick drum and the snares. When I'd done the drums, I brought in the other synth tracks, and that was basically the whole record.
"I laid everything out on the Neve desk, but only used it for balancing and EQ. The Neve basically acted like a hybrid summing amp, because I had all the faders at zero. All the level adjustments were done in Pro Tools. All the tracks were stereo and had been panned hard and left in Pro Tools, so there was no need for panning on the desk either. Another thing I want to mention, because it is really important to me, is the Burl B2 Bomber A-D converter. For a long time I had the Lavry Gold 8000 converter, but people alerted me to the B2, and I fell in love with it. A lot of the sound of the album has to do with this particular piece of equipment and it's one of the key things for 'How To Love', as well. As I mix through the Neve, the mix comes back into Pro Tools via the B2, and I print to stems. And then I mix the stems again. For some reason, everything appears to sound better when it's printed back.”
Drums: Desk EQ, Digirack Compressor & Lo-Fi, Focusrite D2, Waves TransX, SSL Channel & Renaissance Reverb, UAD SPL Transient Designer & Neve 31102.
3: The first of many kick-drum tracks received bandwidth-limiting EQ from Focusrite's D2, light compression from the Digirack Compressor and transient shaping from Waves' TransX.3: The first of many kick-drum tracks received bandwidth-limiting EQ from Focusrite's D2, light compression from the Digirack Compressor and transient shaping from Waves' TransX.Fabian Marasciullo: Recording Lil Wayne's 'How To Love'Fabian Marasciullo: Recording Lil Wayne's 'How To Love'
"In the screen shots [see screen 2], you can see that there are seven kick-drum tracks, starting at the top, 10 snare tracks, beginning at 'Molin7701/MO01' with an Aux 2 in the middle, a snap, a palm clap, a tom track and two hi-hat tracks ['Inst10_b01' and 'Inst52-b01']. These are all machine drums, so when balancing I didn't need to worry about the levels changing leading up to the chorus or towards the end. The drums are very intricate, and a lot of the treatments involved using compressors to keep things in place and subtractive EQ to filter specific frequencies out and make sure everything fit together. One thing that was surprising to me about this track is that the producers actually had things together with the phasing. Often when I get a track with loads of kicks, they are out of phase and I spend a lot of time cleaning things up. But in this case this wasn't necessary. Basically I began with the kicks, making sure they worked well with the sub kicks and getting the speakers cracking, and then I added in the snares and made sure that had the same amount of intensity. After that, I added the percussive stuff, like toms and hi-hats.
"The two first kick tracks at the top are the same 808 sound. The top one has the body filtered out of it and has a sharper attack. I EQ'ed it heavily on the board, around 90Hz and 230Hz. In the box I used the Digirack Compressor/limiter on that, the Focusrite D2 to take out extreme bottom and high end, and then the Waves TransX Wide to get more punch. The second one has a more natural 808 sound, and again has the Digirack Compressor/limiter and the D2, and then it has the Lo-Fi, which is one of my favourite plug-ins. It is what gives me my bottom end, at the very setting I gave you. It's a saturation thing, and it makes it sound as if you're hitting tape. You wouldn't believe what that particular setting does to an 808. You close your eyes, and it's mixed. From the Lo-Fi it goes to a UAD Neve, just to add a little bottom at 80Hz.
"The third kick track is 'OSK', or 'OpenSubKick', and is a normal kick sample with a very round sound. It has the same signal path as the 808 next to it: Digirack Compressor/limiter to D2 to Lo-Fi to Neve 31102, with slightly different settings. 'FO01/ForatD01' is a low-mid kick and has the UAD SPL Transient Designer. I love the UAD stuff. I use it on many things and I think it is amazing. The 'ThckBtmK1' has a higher punch, maybe between 1500Hz and 2k. The 'SharpPunchKick' only comes in once in a while, and sounds a bit like an 808 tom sound. It doesn't hit at the same time as the other kicks, and functions almost like a backbeat.
"Regarding the 12 tracks of snares, the first two tracks, '7701' and '7710', are claps, which I sharpened with the TransX Wide plug-in and the Transient Designer. Then there's an 808 snare and a whole bunch of snares to which I did very little: they just filled in the middle, all the way down to the snap track. Aux 2 has the RVerb with a short room reverb, to give the snap some space and vibe, because everything had been sounding very hard until this point. The main snare is next to the Aux, and next to that is the 'ThunkSnare', which actually was the most prominent one — it sounded like a wooden block. The other snare tracks were more fillers. I used the Waves SSL Channel plug-in on the Thunk Snare, with which I fed the UAD SPL Transient Designer. I added a lot of low end, because the SPL was kind of pulling that out, since it was making it a straight attack, and I wanted a heavy attack. The way it is now, it would probably hit a subwoofer, but it also has plenty of high-end crack.
"Aux 1 also had the RVerb, but on a plate setting, with a decay time that's a little bit longer than the room. A couple of the snares went to that. Everything has its own place, with some of them more to the front and others further back in the room. I'm bored with only having one reverb, and when you have 12 snares, what are you going to do with them? So I decided to give each one its own place. The rest of the drum tracks consist of the 'Gangster Toms', which were 808 toms, on which I had the Waves SSL Channel and the Digirack Compressor/Limiter, and the two hi-hat tracks. The first one was an open hat and the second one a closed hat, and I didn't do anything with them, other than some EQ on the board.”
Keyboards: Desk EQ, UAD Harrison EQ, Waves CLA Unplugged and Mondo Mod.
"There are 10 keyboard/sample tracks, six above the guitar and its aux track, and four below. '8989', 'BA01' and 'CLO01' are a kind of tremolo string sound, on which I added the Harrison32 and the Chris Lord-Alge Unplugged suite. When I worked with Bruce Swedien on Invincible, he talked a lot about the old Harrison stuff. When I saw this plug-in, I wanted to use it, and it's really cool. I did suggest that we replace these tracks with live strings, but they wanted to keep it like this. Towards the end I tried to make them as big as I could, and what you don't see here is that I did a lot of volume automation on the strings, as well as some of the other tracks, particularly the vocals. You may notice that the tracks look very contiguous and well-organised. That's because at this stage they have already been worked on a lot, with levels set, and then consolidated. I did a lot of pre-mixing and riding of the vocals and the strings — as I mentioned, I like to mix and print, and mix more and print again. Next to the strings are some brass tracks, and to the right of Aux 4, more keyboard tracks, with 'Big Club' being an analogue synth sound, then there's a lead sound, and the 'EgM1/2' tracks have a weird, wide bell sound, with the Waves Mondo Mod on them, which were put on by the producer, set to a tempo-based pan. Like the drums, mixing the instruments was a matter of level and EQ to make everything fit. They sounded good and worked well together, but apart from the strings I did keep them relatively far at the back.”
Guitar: Waves Renaissance EQ, SSL Channel, Renaissance Compressor and CLA Guitars, UAD Roland Dimension D.
4: Apart from Lil Wayne's vocals, the most important element of the track was the acoustic guitar. To shape it to fit, Marasciullo used four Waves plug-ins: Renaissance Compressor, SSL E-Channel, Renaissance EQ and CLA Guitars. 4: Apart from Lil Wayne's vocals, the most important element of the track was the acoustic guitar. To shape it to fit, Marasciullo used four Waves plug-ins: Renaissance Compressor, SSL E-Channel, Renaissance EQ and CLA Guitars. Fabian Marasciullo: Recording Lil Wayne's 'How To Love'Fabian Marasciullo: Recording Lil Wayne's
'How To Love'Fabian Marasciullo: Recording Lil Wayne's 'How To Love'
"Again, my main challenge was to get the guitar and Wayne's voice talking to each other and working well together, and I mainly used EQ and compression for that. I had a Waves REQ on the guitar, taking out around 55Hz and 496Hz and adding top end around 11.5k, and that went into the Waves SSL Channel, then the RCompressor, not hitting it very hard, because the main compression came from the Chris Lord-Alge Guitars plug-in on a 'Push' setting. It's really cool, it brings the sound up front without squashing it. It works. The Chris Lord-Alge stuff is so good, man, that I feel like I'm cheating when I'm using it! There are three different settings for the bass, for the treble, compression, reverb, delay and pitch, and these presets work great. I had the reverb set to Arena and the pitch thing to Stereo. Next to the guitar is an Aux 4 track, on which I had the UAD Dimension D plug-in, which has the best chorus ever. I couldn't live without it. Aux 4 was purely there for the guitar.”
Vocals: McDSP Analog Channel, Waves De-esser, Renaissance EQ, Renaissance Compressor and C1, UAD Studer A800 and Empirical Labs Fatso, Dolby 740.
5: This screenshot shows all eight of the plug-ins used to process Lil Wayne's lead vocal. Three of these — McDSP's Analog Channel and the UAD Studer A800 and Fatso — are providing analogue-style warmth and saturation; there are also two Waves De-essers, a Renaissance EQ and two Waves compressors.5: This screenshot shows all eight of the plug-ins used to process Lil Wayne's lead vocal. Three of these — McDSP's Analog Channel and the UAD Studer A800 and Fatso — are providing analogue-style warmth and saturation; there are also two Waves De-essers, a Renaissance EQ and two Waves compressors.
"The vocals consist of three 'Fixed' tracks that are fed to 'Wayne Vox', which really is an Aux track. Yes, there are a lot of plug-ins on the vocals! On the 'Fixed' channels, I have the McDSP Analog Channel to put some air in there at the top — I use the 30ips setting, bias at -10.4, nothing crazy — and the Waves De-esser, taking out what to my ears are low-mids. I do that even before I EQ anything. The signal chain on Wayne Vox begins with the REQ6, and the curve you see — cutting everything below 84Hz, dipping at 533Hz and adding high-mid and high end — is all about making it sit with the guitar. Then it's the RCompressor to control the overall level, and after that there's another de-esser, because a frequency around 13k was really bothering me, and the final insert is the Waves C1 compressor, which is automated, and comes in when he's singing louder. I use the de-essers strictly as a form of EQ. Wayne's esses aren't overbearing, so it's more a matter of me being very sensitive to specific frequencies, and taking them out any way I can. Finally there's a send to an Aux track on which I have the UAD Studer A800 and Empirical Labs Fatso plug-ins. The Studer plug-in kind of glues everything together. I really love it. The Fatso has a Tranny setting on it, and it allowed me to grab the 240Hz frequency and compress it. I love the way I control the low-mids with the Fatso.
"Underneath the 'Wayne Vox' track are several Aux tracks with delays and reverbs. I choose the reverbs, but Wayne does the delays. He's very particular about the delays on his voice and knows exactly on which words he wants repeat delays, and he sends these to me already done. So I don't touch them. You can see that there are two sets of the same thing, and three of them are muted. Basically it's because of the way I'm gating. I run all my vocals through the Dolby 740, which comes up on an effects track called 'Master 17'. The Dolby is a piece of outboard that I love. Every time one comes up on eBay, I buy it, so I now have 12 of them! I haven't found anything that can do what it does, which is giving me a particular shimmer on the vocals. It acts like a compressor, but it's actually an EQ. You can set it so that when the vocals are louder, they sound a bit brighter. The only issue is that they're very noisy, so I have to gate them. So for the delays to ring out cleanly at the end, I had to put the repeats on another output.”
Final mix: GML 8200, UAD Manley Massive Passive.
6: The UAD Manley Massive Passive EQ plug-in was the only one used on the master bus.6: The UAD Manley Massive Passive EQ plug-in was the only one used on the master bus.
"The only other piece of outboard that I used, in addition to the 740, was the GML 8200 EQ, which went across the stereo bus. I monitor the stereo output of the Neve on the Aux 3 track. The signal goes out of the desk, through the GML, through the Burl B2, and via AES back into Pro Tools. I also have a UAD Manley Massive Passive on the insert of Aux 3. Underneath that is my print track, so Aux 3 feeds HTL2, on which I record all my mix passes, stems, and so on. I'll then open up a new session, load in these stem tracks and will continue working from there. Sometimes the stem session can be almost like a new mix, allowing me to free up the DSP on my computer and re-evaluate what more needs to be done. It gives me another layer of control. I don't normally go through the desk again for these stem mixes. But you know what? On this particular session, all the stems came back to zero, so I didn't do anything more with them.
"The session was in 24-bit/44.1kHz, and I printed the final stereo mix to an Ampex 350 tape machine, on GP9 tape, calibration +6/185. I was lucky, because the Hit Factory at one point bought all the remaining stock of GP9 tape. The signal went out of Pro Tools onto the Ampex, using the Antelope Isochrone Trinity clock, and then via the Burl 2 into another computer with a Pro Tools session. I had the second computer set to 96k to make sure that the element of tape was fully captured when going back into Pro Tools. We sent that 24/96 file to mastering, which was done by my friend Brian Gardner. He only did some minor tweaks, related to the ongoing volume wars. Brian and I split the difference between staying true to my mix and making sure that the tracks could compete with what's on the radio. Brian added more level, which means you have to take out bottom end. It's not 100 percent of what I wanted, but for me it was a happy compromise.” .
Florida: Wild Frontier
Fabian Marasciullo: Recording Lil Wayne's 'How To Love'
The making of The Carter IV was complicated by a number of extra-musical factors, including Lil Wayne's prison experience. "After he came out of jail,” recalls Fabian Marasciullo, "he immediately went on tour. It was like: 'Rockstar time!' He was ready to go out and live a little bit. He had been sitting down for more than half a year and didn't want to be inside any more, and certainly not in a windowless room, like a studio. This made life very difficult for Banger [Michael Cadahia], his tracking engineer, because he had to record a lot of the material in the tour bus or in his hotel or in whatever studio they could find in the town they happened to be in. The tour bus didn't have a real studio in it, so it was all makeshift and very improvised, which made it very challenging to have continuity while recording the album. It was a worst-case scenario to get some hi-fi stuff going!
"As I mentioned before, Wayne likes to work by himself, with his engineer, and do his own thing. The producers are rarely there while he is recording. Timbaland was an exception, he's very particular about his stuff, so Wayne and he spent a few days at The Hit Factory. Wayne tends to do his stuff over two-track MP3 mixes that the producers send him, and the funny thing is that he tends to edit these so much that when the producers later hear it, they're asking why he's rapping over the bridge part and the verse music has become the outro, or why two bars from the hook have become part of the verse, and so on. He's very hands-on and asks Banger to do the actual edits for him. With regards to the guest performers, T-Pain and John Legend came to the studio to record stuff there while Wayne was there too, but it's not the kind of collaboration where you picture everybody sitting in the studio together, with the producer there and, say, John Legend playing piano and Wayne doing his thing.
"Wayne's unwillingness to spend much time inside also created an interesting scenario for my work, because I could not get him to come to the studio to listen to my mixes! Normally I would have sent him my mixes via email, but Tha Carter III had been leaked four times, which led to a situation where I had to put the drives in a safe, with me being the only one with the key. They ended up really annoyed, because at the end of the project I went to Italy on honeymoon, with the key in my pocket, and so they had no access the drives! With the new album, there were no digital transfers — most of the producers didn't hear the tracks until after everything was mixed and ready to be released. Wayne would either take a break from touring to come into the studio, or we used iChat. In the studio my assistants were laughing, because I had a dummy drive there with nothing on it, marked 'Carter IV', as well as some drives marked 'Jazz Now', which made people think that they contained jazz compilations. In reality, I had the mix drives with me all the time, they never left my side. If something would have happened to me, Wayne would have lost all his mixes. But like everyone in Florida, I'm an avid gun carrier! It really is like the Wild West.”
Monday, May 25, 2015
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Inside Track | Secrets Of The Mix EngineersPeople + Opinion : Artists / Engineers / Producers / Programmers
Tony Bennett's continuing success showcases the value of old-school recording techniques — and the talents of his engineer son Dae.
Tony Bennett recording his first number one album, at the age of 85!Tony Bennett recording his first number one album, at the age of 85!Photo: Josh Cheuse
It is never too late to have a first number one. Tony Bennett recently managed the feat at the tender age of 85, when his album Duets II topped the US Billboard album charts in the Autumn of 2011. Even more impressively, the album also made it to the top five in almost every other Anglo-Saxon nation, including the UK, and reached the higher regions of the charts in two dozen other countries.
Not only is Bennett the oldest living artist to have a number one album, but he's achieved it with a style of music — the pre-WW2 popular song crooned in jazz band, big band and/or orchestral settings — that was, for several decades considered a relic of the past. Bennett first achieved success during the '50s and early '60s, before undergoing a resurgence in the late '80s, flanked by his sons Danny and Dae, respectively his manager and recording engineer. His career has been on an upward curve ever since, as has classic big-band and orchestral vocal music, so the success of Bennett's Duets, An American Classic, released in 2006 to celebrate his 80th birthday, was not altogether surprising. Produced by the legendary Phil Ramone, it featured an A-list cast of guest singers, including Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Celine Dion, Elton John, Michael Bublé, Sting, Bono, Stevie Wonder, Diana Krall and more.
Duets II has proved even more successful, and features another cast of top guest singers, among them Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse, John Mayer, Aretha Franklin, Michael Bublé, Willie Nelson, Norah Jones, KD Lang and many more. Duets II was co-produced by Ramone and Dae Bennett, and the latter also recorded and mixed both Duets albums. The 56-year old describes how the two Duets albums came into being: "When my brother called me in 2005 saying that my Dad and he were thinking of doing a duets album, I wasn't into it, because these type of records can sound so canned and artificial. I thought about it for a bit, and called him back and suggested that we make a feature out of doing it live. The hardest thing to happen on a recording is something spontaneous, but if you can get something spontaneous to happen, it always is the best stuff. Plus my Dad always records live. He hates headphones, and if you put these on him, and/or put him in a booth, you'd be taking him out of his element and you wouldn't get the best out of him. We have always recorded him live in the studio. So we decided to make the duet albums in such a way that they cannot be but spontaneous and exciting.”
Like its predecessor, Duets II was recorded and mixed by Tony Bennett's son Dae Bennett (right).Like its predecessor, Duets II was recorded and mixed by Tony Bennett's son Dae Bennett (right).
Dae Bennett and Phil Ramone's method was to record Tony Bennett and each of the guest singers with a jazz quartet — drums, double bass, piano and guitar — in that most old-fashioned of ways: live in the studio, with no separation or click track. The other trick that appeared to have worked well for the first Duets album was not to tell the guest singers that this was the modus operandi (by the time the second album came round, most stars had presumably wised up to the ploy!). Dae Bennett: "With the first album, many of the artists arrived at the studio thinking they were going to sing to a backing track, and when they came in and saw Tony and the quartet and all the mics set up, they were like, 'Jeez!' We always had a headphone station set up, ready to go, if they really wanted it, but everyone settled for not using them. So instead we had two Red monitors on either side of them, with the quartet semi-circular in front of the singers. The Red monitors are very directional, and more like sidefills than floor wedges. My Dad also uses them in live performances.
"When the Dixie Chicks came in [during the recordings of the first album], one of them, Emily Robison, sat down next to me at the console and through the side of her mouth whispered to me: 'You know what? We never record this way! We're really nervous about doing this.' They were doing 'Lullaby Of Broadway' with an Andrews Sisters-type vocal arrangement, and I said to them: 'Don't worry about it.' My Dad is also very good at putting people at ease, and of course, they are really talented. By the end of the session, they were all very happy and doing high fives and so on. Almost all the sessions turned out that way, with artists coming in nervous and by the end being very happy. Michael Bublé sang on the first Duets album, and when he came in for his session for the second album he said: 'I do all my sessions like this now.' John Mayer was probably the most nervous of the artists who participated in the making of Duets II, and said that he really wasn't sure about the phrasing and stuff. Many artists think that they have to phrase like Tony, but I explained to him that we just wanted him to do his thing, that our idea was for everyone to be themselves. I said to him: 'It's a blues tune, and you play blues guitar, don't you?' And he was like 'Oh, yeah,' and he got it. After that, everything started to flow. We got that a lot during the sessions. I always do my best to keep everything relaxed, and my Dad is a very mellow guy, so we made sure everyone was feeling comfortable. That's how you get the best takes.”
A Spare Half Hour
Tony Bennett in discussion with the album's co-producer, Phil Ramone.Tony Bennett in discussion with the album's co-producer, Phil Ramone.Photo: Kelsey Bennett
Most of the recordings of the quartet and the vocalists for the first Duets album had taken place at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles and at Dae's own Bennett Music Studios (see box). It was the same for Duets II, with the addition of Ben Folds' studio in Nashville and Avatar Studios in New York. Bennett: "Ben's studio is the old RCA room, and we recorded Willie Nelson, Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill, Alejandro Sanz and John Mayer there. The main problem with a project like this, with many big-name acts, is scheduling, which was my brother's job as executive producer. What worked well with the first record, so we also did this for the second, was to book Capitol Studios during the Grammy week, when a lot of artists are in town anyway. There were also two groupings of sessions at Bennett Studios, but some artists' schedules were so tight that we also did a day of sessions at Avatar, where we recorded Lady Gaga, Sheryl Crow and Aretha Franklin. We had Lady Gaga for two hours, and Aretha Franklin for maybe 90 minutes, and Bennett Studios, being as close to Manhattan as it is, still adds another half-hour travel time, so it was easier for everyone to grab a cab and go to Avatar. It was hairy at times!
"In addition, we flew to London to record Paul McCartney for the first album, and Amy Winehouse for the second one, which was apparently her last-ever session before she died. The video of her and Tony singing that you can see on the Internet shows the actual vocal recordings! We also went to Italy to record Andrea Bocelli at his house, and we recorded Mariah Carey in her bedroom: she was pregnant with twins and wasn't going anywhere! The sessions at Capitol, Bennett Studios and Ben Folds' studio were with the live quartet, and we also took the quartet with us to London when recording Paul McCartney, but for the other sessions we had recorded the quartet in advance, and Tony and the guest singer were singing to a two-track mix of the quartet. I then edited the quartet and vocal recordings, and I gave what I call the 'locked edits' to the video people — the whole thing was being filmed at the same time — as well as the big-band and string arrangers. The big-band recordings took place on one day at Bennett Studios, while the orchestra was recorded over two days on the seventh floor of the Manhattan Centre, in the Hammerstein Ballroom. I later mixed everything at Bennett Studios.”
Spilling The Beans
John Mayer with Tony Bennett.John Mayer with Tony Bennett.Photo: Josh Cheuse
In view of how the recording sessions were handled, it's no surprise that Dae Bennett's screen shots from the Amy Winehouse duet, 'Body And Soul' and the John Mayer duet, 'One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)' look highly unusual by today's standards. Just seven drum tracks and a total of five tracks for the bass, guitar and piano is positively minimal in an era when 100-plus tracks in a session are not unusual.
The lack of separation is also apparent from simply looking at the waveforms, which show significant amounts of spill when the singer isn't singing, and an enormous dynamic range. Given how much Tony Bennett moves around on the session videos — in the clip with Lady Gaga, both of them seem practically oblivious to the existence of the mics — it's amazing that there's level at all in some places. Yet the wealth of vertical lines on the screenshots indicates that a significant amount of editing took place. Taken altogether, the screens suggest a very unusual marriage of 21st Century and old-school approaches. So what exactly was going on? Dae Bennett takes things from the beginning, starting with the mics and signal chains he used.
"My vocal setup for the recordings with the quartet consisted of two Audio-Technica AT4047 mics, going into a Neve 1073 and then a [Urei] 1176. I normally like to use the classic Neumann U47 for recording vocals, but they would have picked up too much of the room. The AT4047s have a tighter cardioid pattern and also sound very good. In the sessions when the vocalists sang to the locked two-track edits, I did use two Neumann U47 mics. My drum mics were pretty standard: a Neumann FET 47 on the kick, Shure SM57 on the snare, [Audio-Technica] AT4080s for the overheads, [Neumann] KM184 on the hi-hat and Sennheiser 421 on the toms. All the mics were placed very close.Most of the album tracks were recorded with a jazz quartet playing in the same room as Tony Bennett and the guest singers, so mics were positioned fairly close to the sources to cut down spill. This photo shows part of Dae Bennett's drum miking setup, with two Audio-Technica AT4080s as overheads; also visible is the Neumann KM184 on hi-hat. Most of the album tracks were recorded with a jazz quartet playing in the same room as Tony Bennett and the guest singers, so mics were positioned fairly close to the sources to cut down spill. This photo shows part of Dae Bennett's drum miking setup, with two Audio-Technica AT4080s as overheads; also visible is the Neumann KM184 on hi-hat. The double bass was recorded with a DI and a Neumann U47, which I may have run through an [Teletronix] LA2A to add some presence, the guitar with an AEA R84 ribbon, right on the speaker, and the piano with two AKG C414s, placed close to the strings, with the lid closed. All the mics went through Neve 1073 mic pres — I'm a big fan of them.
"Before coming into the studio, the band had worked out an arrangement for each track, while Tony, Phil and I had worked out the duet distribution, ie. who sings what, and where harmonies would be sung, and where we wanted improvising.Tony and Dae Bennett and Phil Ramone created lyric sheets showing the distribution of lines between Tony and his guests (right); these were used by Dae and Phil Ramone to 'score' individual phrases, which could then be edited together to make master vocal recordings.Tony and Dae Bennett and Phil Ramone created lyric sheets showing the distribution of lines between Tony and his guests (right); these were used by Dae and Phil Ramone to 'score' individual phrases, which could then be edited together to make master vocal recordings. Some people sing harmonies better than others, and we didn't go for a lot of harmony singing, because it makes the sessions more complex. We also didn't do any pre-recording rehearsals, because we wanted to keep everything simple and spontaneous. The singers would come in, we'd work through the vocal parts and harmonies with them, and then we'd do takes. We recorded four to six takes of each song on average. Phil and I each had a lyric sheet with a grid, and we made notes as things went down of what was great, or just good, and what was not so good. Over the years I've found that these notes have become surprisingly accurate, and they certainly saved us hours and hours of time during editing, because you know where the things are that you want to use.
"I did the editing based on the vocal performances, so I began editing by compiling the best vocal performances and making a rough cut of them. For the most part, because of the spill, when I cut the vocal tracks, I had to cut the quartet with them. On the screenshots you can see vertical lines going all the way through the quartet and vocal tracks, which was me cutting the takes as if I was cutting two-inch tape with a razor blade. I would then also cut inside of these takes and tracks, so you get thinner lines, and because of the way Pro Tools names these regions or snippets, the numbering may not line up vertically. Sometimes the edit lines are staggered, ie. they don't line up vertically. One of my favourite things with Pro Tools is that you can stagger crossing points. I may have done this, for example, because Tony sang a brief pickup just before an edit point, so I have to open the new edit sooner than the band. In other cases I may need to let the vocal hang over a little bit longer, going into the incoming quartet edit. With his phrasing, Tony may come in early or later, or there may be other surprises. We always say that Tony never sings something the same way once! [laughs]The complete Pro Tools Edit window for the duet between Tony Bennett and John Mayer, 'One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)'. The two large, edited tracks in the centre are the vocal comps; above them are the tracks for the jazz quartet, and below them the big band that was added later. Note how many of the edits were made across both the quartet and the vocal tracks. Spill from the other instruments is clearly visible on the vocal parts.The complete Pro Tools Edit window for the duet between Tony Bennett and John Mayer, 'One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)'. The two large, edited tracks in the centre are the vocal comps; above them are the tracks for the jazz quartet, and below them the big band that was added later. Note how many of the edits were made across both the quartet and the vocal tracks. Spill from the other instruments is clearly visible on the vocal parts.
"The main issue with the edits was that you can't lose the sound of the room, so there was not a lot of space to move tracks around or drop in individual words. Also, doing global edits required a lot of attention, because we hadn't recorded to click track. It's all in-space editing, just musical. This would, of course, not have been possible if my father wasn't working with this incredible quartet. I'm a drummer, and I had a little flashing metronome with me in the control room, to make sure the tempos didn't go crazy. The musicians are pretty much playing the same thing every take, as there was an arrangement, but they are jazz guys, so there were variations. You can see some mutes in some tracks, and this was where I had some leakage issue at a particular moment. If I muted the vocals at some points, something may have happened in the quartet that I wanted to edit out. Of course, you want to keep the room tone consistent, and muting one mic can affect this, but if I could get away with it, I would do it. I've done a lot of on-location recording, and I guess I'm used to working with spill. Leakage simply is part of the sound. It may come across as a nightmare, but I think it greatly adds to the live sound of this record.
"Once I'd edited the quartet and vocal recordings, I'd send these edits out for approval. Everybody involved might have some comments, and I'd make adjustment to incorporate those, and then I'd send out the next version for final approval. When I had that, I bounced that edit to a stereo file. As I mentioned before, I called that the locked edit, and I'd send it with the timecode EDL [edit decision list] and take numbers to the video guys, so they knew what to use, as well as to the arrangers.
"For the big-band sessions after that, we had five saxes, recorded with [Neumann] U87 mics, four trombones, recorded with [Neumann] TLM103s, and four trumpets recorded with two Coles 4038 mics and two AT4080 mics.The setup for big-band recording, with Coles 4038s for trumpets (front), Neumann TLM103s for trombones (rear) and Neumann U87s for saxophones (left). The setup for big-band recording, with Coles 4038s for trumpets (front), Neumann TLM103s for trombones (rear) and Neumann U87s for saxophones (left). Mic pres were again the 1073s, or Focusrite ISAs. We had a 60-piece orchestra at the Hammerstein Ballroom, recorded over two days. I had extensive miking on the orchestra, with stereo pairs on each string section, so there was a stereo pair on the first violins, a stereo pair on the second violins, a stereo pair on the violas; cellos, brass and woodwinds were recorded with individual mics, and for percussion I had overheads with some additional spot mics. But 90 percent of the sound you're hearing comes from the two overhead mics, which were two AT4080s. The original studio arrangement of the orchestra was done before there was electricity, so the orchestral setup is the mix, and if you have a good-sounding space and a couple of good overhead mics, you get a pretty good balance.”
'One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)'
Dae Bennett: Recording Tony Bennett's 'One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)'Written by Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer.Produced by Phil Ramone & Dae Bennett.
"I did all the mixes at Bennett Studios, on the SSL G+ series desk. After I was done, Phil [Ramone] came in and we finalised the mixes together. The mixes were mainly a question of balancing and EQ and adding some AMS reverb and occasionally some chamber reverb from a Lexicon 480. I used hardly any plug-ins or effects. All the compression I intended to use was added during recording, and in any case, I was not creating a sonic fantasy, but simply trying to make real live recordings sound as good as possible. I'm not some kind of audiophile minimalist or something, I just think that keeping it simple is what sounds best. If I think it needs a plug-in or some outboard processing, I'll go for that. I've worked with all kinds of music and I like different types of music, so the perspective I have from that is not to have any rules. I keep an open mind.
"Because everything on these sessions was close-miked, there wasn't a lot of variation between the sound, in terms of in what place we had recorded the quartet and the vocals. So I spent the first two, maybe three, days of the mix sessions creating templates for the mixes of all the songs, for the quartet, and for the big band, and for the orchestra. This meant laying everything out on the desk, and patching things in, and creating EQ and reverb settings. The main thing with a project like this is to attain consistency throughout the whole album. There may have been some tweaking here and there because of a U47 in one place sounding different than one we used somewhere else, but once the console was set up, I tried to maintain continuity over the mix of 18 songs. On finishing a mix, I A/B'ed it with a previous mix to check for consistency.
"So after I had spent these two or three days creating templates, it was mainly a matter of using desk volume automation to get the balance right for each song. I added some AMS reverb to the vocals, and very occasionally a plug-in or real 1176 to keep things in check, and to get some more presence. On some tracks, Tony was more sure of the lyrics than on others, and I also had to compensate for him moving around while singing. I did that by riding the automation. I'm a real believer in A/B'ing things, and so I also would listen to CDs of each of the guest artists, to hear how they like their voice to sound — assuming that that is the way they like to hear themselves! I tried to get them as close as possible, while at the same time keeping the continuity of the album. Normally it was very straightforward to make them sound very close to their own records. If I was running a dozen patch cables it was a lot.
"The whole Session was done in 48kHz/24-bit, and I mixed back into the same Session. I ran the mixes through the compressor in the centre section of the SSL desk and then through a Manley Massive Passive EQ and then back into Pro Tools. Towards the end of the mix sessions, I A/B'ed later mixes with earlier ones, again to make sure that there was consistency throughout the whole album. In short, the mixes were very straightforward. As I said before, the real interesting stuff happened during the recordings, and particularly in the dynamics between Tony and the different guest singers!” .
Dae Bennett and Bennett Studios
Tony Bennett's 56-year old son Daegal began his musical career many years ago as a rock drummer, with an early interest in recording. He recalls, "Our family grew up in here in Englewood [New Jersey, close to northern Manhattan], and one reason why so many jazz musicians were out here was because Rudy van Gelder had his studio here. When my parents had a house built, they asked Rudy to set up a small studio in the basement, which had an old Ampex two-track tape machine. Of course, with my father being on the road all the time, my brother and I were in there a lot of the time! So my brother and I grew up with gear, and it's something that was always in the background for me, even when I was working as a musician.”
Still in his teenager years, Dae and his older brother D'Andrea (Danny), a bassist, founded the country-rock band Quacky Duck and His Barnyard Friends in the early 1970s, which also featured the now well-known guitarist/violist David Mansfield. The group recorded one big-budget album, Media Push (1974) — says Dae, "I celebrated my 18th birthday in a studio in Boston” — but was otherwise short-lived. Dae Bennett continued to work as a drummer, but "woke up one morning and realised that I was trying to be a rock drummer in a disco era, and so I decided to switch to Plan B”, which involved exploiting his skills as an engineer. He began building his own studio in 1980, and opened it as Hillside Studios in Englewood in 1982. He ended up experimenting with the emerging new music technologies, like computers, sequencing, and MIDI, and the corresponding new music styles, mostly hip-hop, in part due to the influence of Sugarhill Records, which was also based in Englewood, and which recorded a lot of its artists at Hillside. Dae Bennett worked, for example, on Rob Base's pioneering 'It Takes Two' ("one of the first records to use an entirely sampled rhythm section”) and with Naughty By Nature and Teddy Riley.
In 2000 he started Bennett Music Studios, also in Englewood, in part to cater for the recording needs of his father. Until its closure in September last year, it had become one of the most successful studio facilities on the American East Coast, with 18 albums recorded there that won Grammy Awards. Yet despite its success, Bennett — like so many other top studios — was recently forced to close its doors.
Bennett: "My previous studio, Hillside, was a small place where we could at most record trios and quartets, but if we wanted to record a big band we had to go to another studio. So I set up Bennett Studios, which was located in an old train station in the centre of town and had several huge recording spaces. All the acoustics were done by Andy Munro, and they were perfect: not too live, not too dead. Moreover, there was a 1400-seat theatre down the road and we literally dug a trench down the street from the studio to the theatre, and put a pipe in it for fibre-optic cables with a 64-input splitter at the back of the theatre stage. This made it possible for us to record a lot of TV and live shows, and we also used the theatre as a big surround or echo chamber.
"Bennett Music Studios was a great space with many facilities, and if someone had told me at the beginning that we'd record 18 albums there during the next 10 years that had won 18 Grammy Awards and an Emmy Award, I would have signed up for that. So we did really well and I'm really proud of what we did.
"But it came to a crossroads recently, with me needing to invest in the studio, and I felt that there was just too much uncertainty to justify doing that. The Neve VR needed refurbishing, the Digidesign and other computer stuff needed updating, the SSL G+ also needed work, and it would have cost half a million bucks or so! I'd rather have a root canal than maintain a Neve VR! Maintaining them is like painting the Washington Bridge: by the time you've finished one end, you have to start at the other end again. I did not see this as a worthwhile investment, given the state of the music industry. But the studio is still there, and there are some people looking into buying the gear, and some people interested in buying the entire business, because it's a beautiful place. It'd be a shame to see it go, but I'm not holding my breath.
"I'm now working again as a freelance engineer. I have always done a lot of on-location and posting work, and I really enjoy live recording, as well as mixing. I've just finished creating a setup at my home, where I now have a nice small editing suite with a DAW.”
Amy Winehouse's Final Session
Tony Bennett with Amy Winehouse.Tony Bennett with Amy Winehouse.Photo: Kelsey Bennett
On March 23rd 2011, Tony and Dae Bennett met with Amy Winehouse at Abbey Road Studio 3 for what was to be the British singer's last recording session, exactly four months before her death on July 23rd. They recorded the classic song 'Body And Soul', which had been written in 1930, was performed by legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra, and became a jazz standard following saxophonist Coleman Hawkins' timeless 1939 version. Dae Bennett recounts the history of the Winehouse-Bennett version:
"We had already recorded the quartet at Bennett Studios. We had done a few takes, but I liked one take all the way through, so we used that. It's the reason why the quartet recordings in the Edit window don't have any edit lines. We set Tony and Amy up with playback speakers and two [Neumann] U47 mics, and what you see in the video are the actual vocal takes that I selected for my edit. The signal chains were the same: Neve 1073 and then an 1176 and then going into Pro Tools. I recall that they did about five or six takes. You can see some mutes in the vocal takes, which is where there may have been too much leakage or too much of the sound of the room. But in general I left the spill. The string arrangement was added later.Amy Winehouse's last recorded performance, as captured in Pro Tools. Here, the two singers were performing to 'locked' backing tracks, so there are no edits to the quartet recordings.Amy Winehouse's last recorded performance, as captured in Pro Tools. Here, the two singers were performing to 'locked' backing tracks, so there are no edits to the quartet recordings.
"The most interesting stuff always happens in the dynamics between the artists. Amy was another person who was very nervous when she came in. She seemed a little awestruck. But as soon as my father said that she reminded him of Dinah Washington, the floodgates opened. She relaxed and she was off. It was a great session, and the result was everyone's favourite track on the album. We were really devastated when we heard she had died, because we were really impressed with her and the depth of her talent.”
Bennett and Winehouse's version of 'Body And Soul' was released on September 14, to commemorate what would have been Winehouse's 28th birthday. The day also marked the launch of the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which was set up to support organisations that help young adults with problems such as ill health, disability, ﬁnancial disadvantage or addiction. Proceeds from 'Body And Soul' go to the foundation. For their work on the recording, Bennett and Winehouse were nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category.