“Hey Richard, could you get me stems for that project we did in 2006?”
Back then I was running Pro Tools 7. Bouncing tracks to create stems was really time consuming and I used to avoid producing them. I would create mix minus tracks which consisted of one single stereo bounce, the mix print, minus selected instruments or vocals. Those would be run in real time.
First, a bit of context. Some artists will request stems if they are intending to use studio tracks as backing tracks in a live performance. In the session pictured above, we might choose to create the following stems:
- Bass Guitar Stem
- Drums Stem
- Percussion Stem
- Keyboards Stem
- Guitars Stem
- Lead Violin Stem
- Backing Violins Stem
- Click Track Stem
By cutting them separately and ensuring that they all start at the same time, the artist can use a laptop running Ableton Live, Logic or some other DAW, and create a live mix based on whatever instruments might be needed.
Back 10 or 15 years ago, making stems was a real pain and there were few requests for stems in music production. Pro Tools was real-time bounce only which meant that at a bare minimum, 8 stem tracks would take about an hour or so to record as multiple passes were required to create the stem tracks. And setting up the session so that stems could be created was a real pain.
With Pro Tools 12, life is so much easier.
My workflow looks like this. The first thing I do is put the session into grid mode so that my markers will be precise. I mark the entry and exit points for the stems by going to my master output fader (or whatever output bus prints the overall mix). I ensure that there is a two-bar count-in for the click. And I select the area to be printed for the stem tracks on the output bus like so:
Let’s say I want to create stems for the Drums. I start by selecting all of the tracks that I do not want to include in the stem.
I make all of those tracks inactive.
All of the selected tracks are now inactive leaving just the drums and any of the processing tracks (e.g. reverbs) open.
I have to select just the master track now making sure that I still have the in and out section highlighted.
Time to bounce the stems for the drums.
A dialog will come up prompting me for the filetype, name and location for the bounced track.
And that is it. Pro Tools will bounce the active tracks to a stem in faster than real-time. All I need to do is repeat the process for the balance of the stems. So, if Bass was the next stem, I would make it active, ensure the unneeded tracks were made inactive, select my Master track and do another bounce. I would repeat the process for all of the stems.
With Pro Tools 7, I would have had to spend 20 hours or so creating stems for the session from 2006. Including retrieval from the archives and session setup, it took me less than 5 hours to bounce all the stems in Pro Tools 12.
And here I thought I was a heavy user of my smartphone.
Tom Petty passed away yesterday. Very sad news.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers recorded a number of their albums at Sound City Studios including Damn The Torpedoes, Hard Promises and Southern Accents.
Sound City was started in 1969 and became a private studio for a period between 2011 and 2016. The studio reopened earlier this year.
Originally built as a factory for Vox amplifiers, a studio was added in 1964 to test amplifiers. After a few years the building was purchased by Tom Skeeter who partnered with Joe Gottfried in 1969 with the intent to operate a commercial recording studio: Sound City Studios was born. Despite a few high profile sessions such as Neil Young, Dr. John and James Gang, the studio struggled to stay afloat for the first few years.
Then in 1973, the studio invested in purchasing additional equipment to attract clients. But it will not be until a young couple named Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks came in to record their debut album that fortune changed.
Through a chance encounter with drummer Mick Fleetwood, the couple joined Fleetwood Mac and went on to record the start of a string of hit albums. The release of their eponymous album in 1975 made the band superstars and put Sound City firmly on the map. It also further reinforced the reputation of the studio as one of the greatest drum room in the world.
Soon the 70s saw a flood of stars finding their way to Sound City: War, Elton John, The Grateful Dead, REO Speedwagon, Santana, Foreigner, Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper, Peter Frampton, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers among others.
The studio had purchased a Neve desk back in the early days, an 8028, that Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters later purchased for his own studio.
The 1970s and 80s were such an amazing time for music recording and it is wonderful to see Sound City Studios reopen its doors. So much history there.
Original release was 1971. Here is a live cut from 2017 which has Skip Prokop’s son Jamie on the drums.
Skip Prokop spent a lot of time in my Toronto studio. We worked on a couple of projects together for his son Jamie. I had known Skip for many years, way back in the late 70s and early 80s when I was a session player. We lost touch and reconnected after many years and then started working together on Mercy Train.
Skip died yesterday. I loved the man and it really hurts to see him gone. He was strong in his faith and I know that he is home in heaven now. He lived an incredible life.
A few shots to share from the time we had together.
Skip cared deeply for his son Jamie. And Jamie is an exceptional talent. Much like his father.
This was the kit that Skip used most of the time when playing live. Skip also played Monolith drums. For many of the sessions, we used the Monolith kit. Bill Hibbs provided Skip with a lot of support. Monolith drums was co-founded by April Wine drummer Jerry Mercer and Bill Hibbs.
Skip had a rare musical talent as well as terrific production skills. He knew how to draw the very best out of a musician.
I did live sound for one of Mercy Train’s concert events and my wife, Lorraine, caught this shot of Jamie playing on stage with his dad. This was the first public performance for Mercy Train at an outdoor concert in Ontario. They were on the same card as Casting Crowns. The band was outstanding and it was really impressive to see just how amazing Skip and Jamie were as live players. Skip was in his early sixties at the time. He was still very much a monster player.
Very sad to learn of Skip’s passing. I’ll treasure the time we spent together.
Goodbye, old friend.
There are somewhere north of 700 rigs in my Kemper.
So many amp tones. So little time.
I went searching on the web to focus the search for tones down to a more manageable list. Most of the time, I am playing in a church situation which calls for a certain type of sound similar to what you might hear from the Edge (guitarist for U2).
I seem to be settling on a few rigs:
- Matchless SC30 BC6 from Michael Britt’s Profile Pack 1
- Princeton from Michael Britt’s Profile Pack 1
- Morgan CM50 Brt Klon 1 from Michael Britt’s Profile Pack 2
- /13 JRT915 84 (1/2/3) from Michael Britt’s Profile Pack 2
- Vox AC30 B3 Red 2 from Michael Britt’s Profile Pack 2
I have been building up my performances on a song by song basis using the internal effects of the Kemper for things like compression, boost, overdrive, delays, reverbs. I noticed that some players take some different approaches to build their performances.
The Simple Approach
One size fits all. One performance patch only for the Kemper with a set of basic sounds. Could look like this:
- Clean: dotted 8th delay, Tubescreamer, Rotary, compression
- Dirty: dotted 8th delay, boost, tremolo, compression
- Swells: delay, autoswell
- Shimmer: delay
- Solo: boost, distortion
With this approach, the effects are switchable in and out. The Kemper Remote tap tempo with its built-in beat detector is quite impressive so no need to program in tempos for the delays.
Every song gets its own performance. Each performance patch is divided up into as many as five tones, or rigs (intro, verse, chorus, bridge, solo). I have built up about 40 songs so far. I’ll definitely have another 40 or so added to the list of performances by the end of the year. For the upcoming Celebrate Christmas event, I will have about 25 songs.
I like the simple approach. One and done.
I use my approach because I like to craft the tones for each song. Discovering how the amp profiles might work for a song and going through the effects capabilities, particularly the new delay engine, does take time. It also forces me to learn a lot about the Kemper unit which is a surprisingly deep system.
And a surprisingly good sounding system.
The I Can’t Get Over Analog Approach
Pick one amp tone for the Kemper and only one. After all, you can only play one amp in the real world. And drag that big pedalboard along because everyone will hear how much better the digital profile will sound with all of that analog goodness coming from the pedals.
In a way, I do like this approach because it is much easier to stomp on pedals than to program the effects in the Kemper. I find that I have to scroll through dozens and dozens of effects to get to certain sounds, like the delay sounds, and then audition each one until I find one that works. Counterintuitive to just reaching out to a pedal, turning it on and rotating a few knobs.
I’m also working with Kemper’s Rig Manager on a computer and although it might be fine for setting up rigs, it lacks functionality big time to assign effects for a performance. Right now I am spending a lot of time setting up the effects chain through the Kemper whereas a pedalboard would be all set and ready to go.
With time, I should get faster with the effects chain.
I worked for this company for about 10 years. The company had achieved a remarkable marketing objective: they branded financial freedom. Known as Freedom 55, London Life successfully brought to market a new way of thinking about financial security planning. Although James MacKinnon, Professor of Econometrics at Queen’s University here in Kingston, had this blunt assessment of Freedom 55:
Freedom 55 is just not going to be feasible, and I’m not convinced it ever was.
Well, some people do get there.
I follow Financial Freedom is a Journey, a blog that highlights the approach that the author had taken to become financially free.
I retired in May 2016 at the age of 56 after a 34 year career in banking. My wife beat me. She retired in 2015 at the age of 52. Who said life is fair?
I have been a relatively conservative investor for over 30 years. While our passive income pales in comparison to that of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger at Berkshire Hathaway, our annual dividend income and rental income far exceeds that reported in any other “investing” blog I have read to date; as at February 2017 we generate six figures in passive income.
My observations lead me to believe the lack of money creates unnecessary problems. I have, therefore, created this blog in the hopes of being able to impart some of my experiences over the course of my investment career.
What I love about his blog is that he posts his portfolio and provides a summary of his dividend income as well as his overall portfolio. You can find his current portfolio here.
His reported holdings total about 1 million which is a great outcome for someone who retired at 56. Although he claims to generate six figures in passive income, I only get to about $30k or so from his reported portfolio so he must have other holdings contributing the balance. Producing six figures in passive income requires a portfolio in the 2-3 million dollar range.
He shares some great investing ideas and really does some post some helpful research. His post on Enbridge is an example.
As always, I read these types of blogs to gain perspective. I do not use them to make my own investment decisions for me. That said, there is a lot of really good insight on this particular blog. I hope he continues to post!
We had a wonderful day yesterday doing something we had never done before despite living in the area for almost ten years. We took a boat over to tour Boldt Castle.
Here are a few pictures from our day.
First up is a shot of the Power House. Quite the structure for a power generator.
The grounds surrounding the castle are wonderfully maintained.
Here is a shot of Lorraine in front of Alster Tower.
One of many restored rooms in the castle.
And so many boats. Packed with tourists. We got lucky and managed to enter the island during a bit of a lull. I was surprised by the volume of people that came out to visit the castle that day.