This collection of original fiddle tunes and songs completes the Barn Jazz trilogy, which began back in 2001 in my original Oracle, Arizona studio. Given the recent political seismic shift, think of this as a metaphorical “high” to help put it all aside while we endure the next 4 years. The photos were taken at over 11,000 feet at Boreas Pass, near Breckinridge, Colorado.
“Barn Jazz” is my term for bluegrass in a tuxedo, or jazz in hip boots played at night when the cows have gone to bed. In essence this music knows no firm boundaries, has no walls, and requires only that you listen again and again for the details, for the sounds of the crossing the high country, or marching along the Grand Valley canals of Grand Junction. You may remember lost friends like Banjo Joe, and others who are no longer with you, while you wonder where they have gone. Maybe you had a first waltz, when you awkwardly held that young lady or gentleman, or shuffled off to the stars in sidereal time. Please enjoy this music when you work, when you play or travel, or when the lights are down low and the music is turned up. Please let me know what you think, I am always curious to find out if any of these tunes touch you in certain ways.
I am no longer accepting recording work for the near future, as I will be undertaking an intensive 5 month course in cybersecurity, beginning in mid-January. I will, however, be setting up a small composing and mixing studio in our new domicile, and will continue to accept small projects for mixing and post. I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to all of those wonderful musicians in the GJ area with whom I have had the privilege to work.
The 9′ x 9′ x 8′ high room is (according to the experts) probably the worst shape you can have acoustically speaking (a cube), but with some good treatment from GIK and ATS, the sound inside is what I would describe as “neutral” for vocal and instrument work. It is not overly dead, nor is it reverberant. Hopefully it will sound good as a drum room as well.
The area was originally a corner alcove that was open on one side. The left and rear interior walls back up to the house stem walls (as this is in a walkout basement), and the right wall is adjacent to the bathroom. We added a layer of 5/8″ Soundbreak board over the existing drywall to all three walls and the ceiling, using RC-1 resilient channel and soundproofing foam tape from SoundProofingSale.com to provide a buffer and air gap between the new and existing drywall.
A new front wall was constructed for the window, door, and patch panel, using wood frame and Soundbreak on both the interior and exterior of the frame, with sound proofing foam tape between the drywall and wood. We used 2″ rock wool fiberglass from Home Depot for insulation. Mike Miller constructed the wall and put up the drywall.
Soundbreak is very heavy gypsum board that is used as a replacement for standard drywall for sound studios, apartments, etc. It weighs about 86 lbs. per sheet, and is quite expensive ($70.00). It has an excellent STC (Sound Transmission Class) rating of 53 – 60 when installed over both sides of a wood frame. We obtained this material, along with oodles of sound-proofing caulk, from a local Grand Junction vendor, Pioneer Materials. The floor is simple utility carpet and pad from Home Depot, over vinyl and concrete.
The window consists of two panes of laminated glass, one 1/4″, and one 3/8″, set into a shallow V-shape, with about a 3/4″ to 1″ air gap between them. We used Rod Gervais’ book, “Home Recording Studio – Build It Like The Pros” for guidance on door and window construction.
The door itself is a very heavy solid core, 1 and 3/4″ thick, from Home Depot, with a door seal kit and threshold drop seal from Acoustical Solutions. Ron Standing made the window, built the door jamb, and installed the door and sealing kit. Because of the precise specifications needed for sound attenuation, this was a lengthy process covering several weeks.When the door is closed, the drop seal falls into place to seal the threshold and door bottom so that sound cannot leak under the door. The door jamb has rubber seal material attached to an aluminum backing. You know its pretty air tight when you close the door because you can hear the air squeezing out. It takes a bit of effort to close the door, which is good.
The patch panel is a through-the-wall set of jacks for 8 XLR microphone input/outputs and 4 TRS line input/outputs mounted in a black metal panel. I obtained the custom built and labeled panels from Redco.com, and then made a wood mounting box. I soldered up each side of the panel to their respective jacks, requiring 72 connections. I am really glad I had the proper tools for this (hint: resistance soldering station).The edges of the box were sealed with acoustic caulk, and the box interior stuffed with rock wool fiberglass insulation. Ron had special metal trim plates made locally for both sides of the box, to help hold it in place and provide a nice border. He then cut a hole next to the door and attached the box to a stud, and sealed the edges.
The total cost of construction was about $7200, with $4470 for materials and $2730 for labor, spread out over 2 primary work men (Mike Miller and Ron Standing), as well as two assistants and a carpet person. In addition to being the general contractor, I built the patch panel and did all of the painting (the easy stuff!).
Given that a similar-sized pre-fab isolation booth from WhisperRoom.com can cost from $10,000 to $20,000 plus shipping, this is a pretty good cost savings. The only thing missing is ventilation. Smaller booths require this, but given that the talent will be recording for short durations for the most part, the door does not have to remain closed for more than 15 or 20 minutes. Adding a vent system similar to that found in the DawBox.com design still may happen, but I did not want to risk compromising the sound isolation unless absolutely necessary.
The iso-room will help cut down on street and aircraft noise, which occasionally is an issue here. There is no such thing as “sound-proofing”, but with the ability to attenuate sudden rumbles or loud jet noises will improve our recordings and cut down on re-takes.
Next up, I will be doing some SPL measurements inside and outside of the booth to chart just how well we are doing at sound attenuation.
This is a great example of a cover band doing it “live in the studio” for demo CD, something to give out to venue owners and booking agents. This very affordable project took only 8 hours to complete from recording setup to finished master. The final product was manufactured in house, with a full color printed CD in a clear plastic jewel case. Ready to rock a landslide!
Jim Hewitt’s latest CD project, Rivers of the Sky, is an album of instrumentals available for purchase or download at CD Baby. If you enjoy imaginative and mesmerizing music for mediation, background for work, or just relaxation, check this one out. The physical album is $15.00 plus shipping, or you can download it for $9.99, or purchase individual tracks. This project has been 2 years in the making and combines electric violin, viola, octave mandolin, electric mandocello, and electric bass with keyboard parts played using the Omnisphere 1.5 and Chromaphone synth instruments. Click on the link above, or go to CDBaby.com and search for James Michael Hewitt.
The first CD from The Instagators in over 20 years features rock wizard Jimmy McNally on guitar, vocals, keys, and harmonica, Mike Williams on Bass and vocals, Robb Lasater on drums, with appearances by several other local guest artists, including yours truly, “Diamond Jim” on fiddle and mandolin. The project took 4 months to record and mix at Barn Jazz Studios.
The songs are mostly classic rock covers from the Beatles to Roy Orbison, reflecting the kinds of music that local Grand Junction fans have come to expect from these talented musicians. However track 2, “My Kind of Girl”, is an original by McNally. This is by far the most interesting track and is worth the price of admission. Hopefully their next CD will have more of Jimmy’s original tunes.
The CD is available directly from Jimmy McNally. If you would like to order a copy send a check for $12.00 to Barn Jazz Productions, PO Box 1826, Grand Junction, CO 81502 along with your address and I will make sure Jimmy gets one in the mail to you right away. In the meantime if you are in the Grand Junction vicinity you can catch the Instagators (and their new CD) most Friday and Saturday nights at Le Rouge downtown. See their Facebook page for more into (just search for Instagators, and mind the spelling).
I just found a nice explanation from L.A. recording engineer Ronan Chris Murphy as to why its not always a good thing to record vocals in a small vocal booth. I had considered adding one at much expense. Instead I employ a small absorber called a “reflection filter” around the back of the mic as shown here. This gives the mic more focus without complete isolation.
Also Ronan touts the advantages of having a longer, narrower control room/tracking area instead of a small box control room. That is exactly what we have created at Barn Jazz, and the sound of the room is, I think, more open with plenty of room for bass frequencies to develop. Check his video blog out at Ronan Chris Murphy
Just added a new client, The Instagators, a Grand Junction favorite rock group. These guys are for real. Jimmy McNally is a very talented guitarist, singer, composer, keyboard player, you name it. With Mike Williams on bass and Robb Lasater on drums, they rock downtown GJ on a weekly basis. I have played with them on occasion and enjoy their energy and musicianship.
So a few weeks ago I get a call from Jimmy. He wants to make a CD of tunes that they play regularly at their gigs. So we get started recording 10 tunes. You can see some pics from the studio work in the slide show. The CD should be finished sometime in early 2015. I posted the first complete song, Holly Jolly Christmas, on the playlist on the home page. Holly Jolly is a favorite with the locals, especially when played on a hot summer night in July! You may be hearing it on the local community radio station, KAFM.
More to come….
Yes you can teach an old dog new “tracks”. These days many if not most independent engineers and producers are self taught. We learn to mix by accident, mostly. We buy exotic gear, trendy plugins for our DAW’s (“Digital Audio Workstations”), haunt the music and gear forums looking for tips and tricks.
20 or 30 years ago an aspiring audio engineer interned for a local music studio, making coffee, cleaning toilets, and maybe after a few months got to mount tape, set up mics, or push a few faders on the console. Eventually that (young) person was asked to record an entire session, often with a critical senior engineer watching and listening. If you did a good job you got to work with major talent, maybe even get some credits on an album.
Well those days are mostly gone. Yes it still happens but you need to be willing to put in the time for free or low pay and earn your bones. Woof! Not my style.
So how does an old dog continue to hone his chops? One way is through on-line audio education. Another is through workshops and recording “boot camps”. I have done both. So far the most rigorous and rewarding school has been the Audio Master Class courses offered by David Mellor (Oxford School of Audio) out of Thame, England. I have completed the professional courses in Mixing and Equalization, and am currently working through the course on Compression.
These are certificate-track courses that take a minimum of 6 months to complete. You download professionally recorded tracks with the assignment to make them sound a certain way. One recent assignment in the EQ class was to remove hum, buzz, and broadband noise using just EQ filters (no fancy noise removal plugins allowed). This is the hard way, but it is a great learning experience.
So far I am doing quite well, and will continue taking these “adult education” courses because I am serious about improving my skills. Next up will be courses in reverb and mastering. Of course, I already “knew” how to apply EQ, compression, and reverb, but there is always more to learn, often those unexpected things you did not know you did not know.
The feedback I get from Mr. Mellor is the next best thing to “being there” in the role of intern. Highly recommended, if you are interested check out www.audiomasterclass.com.