Friday, May 22, 2015

Record Producer vs Music Producer...Tim...Which is that voodoo, that you do, so well?

By Tim Dolbear -

I spend my life producing music as a traditional Record Producer, the guy who is the equivalent to the "director of the film", but for your music production. It's my job to help with songwriting, pre-production, and in the sessions I make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible. If a Cello is needed on the song, I am the guy who arranges with the Union to get either a 1st seat or 2nd seat cello player in for recording. I help with copyright, business advice, distribution, really every aspect. And if you need more cowbell, I am the guy who walks into the live room and says "Guy, I gotta be honest, I could've use a little more cowbell".

I also am one of the 'those' producers who audio engineers too. One of my mentor was Keith Olden, and through him I was encouraged to develop all my gifts and now, I work producing, arranging, engineering and am still vary active as a studio musician.

I know nowadays there is artists out there that make beats for Hip hop, Rap and R&B and refer to themselves as 'producer'. There has never been a definition made until today. 

An artist that make beats, or music for R&B, perhaps even records the vocalist for the track is a "Music Producer". 

A guy who is the director for your project like me, is a 
"Record Producer"

This is of course not a slam on the Music Producers out there, but actually allows them to thrive at their talent. They should also understand that what they do has been traditionally called an "Arranger".

Really some of the greatest talents in music today are the Music Producers, I know as I have gotten to work with many as often a Music Producer needs a Record Producer.

So there you go, the name tag on my lab coat can now clearly state with out confusion: "Record Producer".

More about my production work:

Friday, May 15, 2015

Cables, connectors, patch-bays, pedals, and the disappearance of tone.

By Tim Dolbear -

A few "a-ha!" moments that shaped how I handle my signal flow.

In the late 1980's while playing in many different rock bands, I built a huge guitar rig; 2 Seymour Duncan 100 watt tube heads that powered 2 Marshall fullstacks, 2 Midiverb II, 1 Midiverb 3, a Digitech ISP33 harmonizer, BBE, a Rane sub mixer and all controlled with a midi switching system. It was held in a 24 space shockmount rack the size of a refrigerator... and weight in at about 250lb. As I slowly built it up over the years, with every new addition to make it better I had not realized that my tone was getting squeezed out ... 

I went to a rehearsal with a new band and was so bummed that my tone seemed to just have disappeared. At the 2nd rehearsal I simply place one of my Seymour Duncan heads in a small rack, and plugged my guitar straight into the head, and the head straight into a Marshall cabinet and nothing in the FX loop. It sounded Amazing! My tone was back!

In 2000, I played electric guitar in a band and was using just a combo amp. One time I took a 12ft Monster cable to a show instead of my normal Belden 30ft guitar cable since this was in a small stage setup and I would be a few feet from my amp.   

All seemed well till I got to the solo of the first song and all of gain was gone! It felt and sounded like all the mid had disappeared and my gain knob had been turned down... I figured something on the amp had died or was dying. When I got home I plugged it in and had the same issue, so I unplugged the 12ft Monster cable and plugged in my normal 30ft cable and all my mid was back and the gain felt and sounded as it should. What did I learned?  Different lengths cause different resistances, leading to different frequency response and output levels.

(Edit) The lack of highs and lows on the Belden cable gave it a mid heavy response, the Monster had the opposite, more highs and lows, so my amp being dialed in for the mid heavy Belden sounded weak without the mid-heavy sounding input.

Of course there is lots of talk about pedals nowadays since huge collections of pedals are now placed inline before the amps of some players. Some pedals use it's circuit while bypassed, meaning the signal is still going through the pedal's electronics even when bypassed, which of course changes the way the amp and guitar react to each other. A cable straight to an amp's input, allows the guitar/amp relationship to work smoothly, but adding a pedal cuts that relationship and the guitar's pickups are now reaction and relating to the buffer/circuit/pedal. 

So in comes the "true-bypass" pedals solution. A pedal that when bypassed simply sends the input signal straight out the output to the amp or next pedal(s). The only thing that is now being added to the signal chain or path is the connectors, small internal wires of the pedals bypass circuit and a switch. Of course an extra guitar cable is also inline; guitar to pedal, pedal to amp. That's still a lot added to the signal.

In about 2005 at Eclectica Studios the last of the 3 "A-Ha!" moment happened. I have always used a patchbay for patching preamps to compressors and EQs and to the AD converters. It made it so I can patch and make multiple combinations. 

I decided to connect my Manley Preamp directly to the Ashly Compressor without the patchbay just to see if there was a difference. There was a definite improvement to the sound, better resolution and all-around tone. The Patchbay and extra cable patching had been steeling tone all these years. 

Now the patchbays are long gone and all my frontend pieces are directly connected. The patchbay, the extra patching cables, all playing a part in the degrading the sound. There are many considerations of course; connectors dying, oxygenation, type of connectors, +4 or -10 operation, type of cables, low-z or high-z impedance... you get the picture. Eliminating extra links improves the signal's integrity. And remember to clean your connectors often, they can become oxidized quickly and a weak electrical connection can creep in. 

So, how about an audio example I hear you ask... 

The signal coming out of a guitar is such a low voltage, its easily affected by various elements injected into the equation. Thus... the easiest to show in my example. But please test these theories on your own systems and studio setups. Bypass anything and everything that can be taken out of your signal chain; pedals, patchbays, extra cables, swap out longer cables with shorter ones...and replace any cheap or "so-so" cables with good quality ones. 

Our test setup; 
Les Paul (Gibson 57 pickups), into a Republic Amp (My Custom 50watt) into a 1976 Marshall 4x12 with the original Greenback Celestion 25watt speakers.  

Audix D1 mic into a Great River MP-2NV preamp with the EQ-2NV EQ (All bands off, HP set to 33Hz) into a 1981 Ashly SC55 into a Apogee AD16 A/D converter.  

Room mics are a stereo pair of sE5 mics into my old 8ch Altec mic pre into a Ashly CL-50 compressor, into the Apogee AD-16 A/D converter. 

All recordings were done at 96k, Sample rate conversion to the final 16bit 44.1k test files used Saracon SRC

(click "Example" to hear or Download all )

Example 1;  12ft Monster instrument cable

Example 2;  30ft Belden instrument cable

Example 3;  21ft Monster instrument cable

Example 4;  21ft Monster cable into a Boss SD-1 pedal, bypassed (Buffered) into a 12ft Monster cable to the amp. 

DOWNLOAD all 4 so you can listen on good speakers...

As well as the sound changing when swapping the cables out, the feel when playing changed. The touch of the guitar and how the amp reacted to my playing changed even more drastically. 

I hope you found this interesting, I live by this stuff!  What you should take away from this... Its a signal chain and every single link makes a difference. Every element, especially anything that happens before a Preamp or Guitar amp... meaning anything before the signal is changed from mic or instrument level into line level is the most susceptible to degradation. But line level signal changes and morphs too. So run some listening test, and let your ears guide you. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tim's Worship Leader's guide to Leading Worship

By Tim Dolbear -

My Background…

I started playing on worship teams in about 2000 at a small church in So Cal.  I really had no idea what I was doing in the beginning other than just playing music as I always have. Leading worship/playing on a worship team was a completely new thing for me as I had grown up performing is clubs and bigger venues in hard rock bands, even backing up famous performers such as Sammy Hagar. Now suddenly I found myself surrounded by volunteers and most musicians were beginners.  Looking back, I approached everything wrong. After a while my wife Angela and I started leading worship or performing original Christian music at various churches as special guest. Over the next 6 years we played all over the place.

When we moved to Austin we started leading worship at Northwest Fellowship, our home church ever since, even when we were out serving at other churches and church plants. For 8 years, Angela and I lead worship on Sundays and Wednesday nights at just about every denomination of Christian church.  Every church we served at seemed to always have drama surrounding the worship team and crazy issues going on. These served as wonderful learning experiences for me. Through much prayer, attending worship leader conferences and of course following the Holy Spirit, I have learned so, so much about leading worship.

While teaching at RBC Ministries a few years ago, they asked me to share my experiences. After which they encourage me to share it with any and all who would listen and my blog seems as good a place to share as any. 

So brace yourself and take a deep breath, as I am sure some of this cause you to want to curse my name. But pray through it and really remember that it’s all about worshiping Him, not feeding our own egos and flesh.


Leading worship: (After point 1, there is no particular order of importance)

1.       If you are on a Worship team or are a Worship leader, you must be in God’s Word.
2.       You are leading worship, leading God’s people into Worship of Him, you are not performing, you are leading God’s people into a time of Worship of the living God!  If you want to perform, that’s perfectly fine, just not at church. It’s not about you. If you want to perform, go book a gig and play a show.  Do not play on a worship team because it’s your only avenue to get to play in front of people.
3.       A worship leaders worships, and is in a state of worship. When you are worshiping God, then those attending will see you worshiping God and hopefully will start to worship Him too. If you are not engaged, they will not be either.
4.       If you do not know the music, and are staring at a music stand, you are not worshiping, so learn and memorize your parts. This will free you to worship and be ready to follow the Spirit when He makes a move.
5.       Worship is the only part of a Sunday service that is for God, and God Alone.  He does not need the announcements, tithes, teaching…
6.       Someone must be in charge and lead. Our God is not a God of chaos. We must be rehearsed and be ready. The worship community needs checks and balances riddled with mentoring and exchanging of Prayers for one another.
7.       Congregational singing is where everyone sings the melody, no harmonies. I truly believe that is how worship should be lead. When you bring in harmonies, one of two things happens, they are done well and the congregation starts to listen to the performance and stops worshiping, or they are done badly and are a distraction.  …And together they sang with one voice “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty”.
8.       Everything you do leading worship, you will stand accountable for before Jesus.


Make sure you do not do anything that distracts worshipers from their time with God. This includes ANYTHING that attracts their attention away from their time with Him.  Everything has the potential to be distracting, so be on guard, the Devil loves to draw worshiper’s attention away from worshiping.

(in random order)

1.       No guitar solos or vocal runs to show off your “abilities”. I am not talking about nice melody parts, I am talking full blown "look at me" Eddie Van Halen guitar solo time. You know when the congregation stop worship and turns and watches the guitar player. We have all seen this happen.  Do you really want to stand in front of Jesus and answer His question “Why where you trying to steal my spotlight and the attention of those worshiping me?”
2.       Talking and preaching. I have seen the Spirit just leave the room because the leader wants to give a mini-sermon. Even a short few words can completely stop the flow. And on that subject, do not start the reflective song after the sermon by re-preaching, or worse, go another direction and disrupt what the pastor has left the body to pray and reflect on. 
3.       Make sure the lyrics are correct on the screen, and available. Even some missing lyrics not showing up is a big distracting.
4.       Do not introduce 4 new songs in a service. Unknown songs are distracting.
5.       Do not endlessly vamp. There seems to be a trend right now to ad lib and vamp lyrics over and over again. This is lost on the congregation and really is just a narcissistic and chaotic style of worship.  Watch the congregation, they all stop worshiping and the only person into it is the person doing it…
6.       Bad sound is a distraction.  Have your sound system dialed in and your staff trained.  Do not use a rotation of 4 inexperienced people to run the sound as they never have enough time behind the board to become fluent and stay fluent as they only serve once a month.  Find one or two people that can take “ownership” of this area.

Musicians and songs

1.       I say no harmonies at all, but if you insist for your own ego to do them… then do not sing harmonies if you have no idea about music theory. Example; the lead vocal sings the melody, a 2nd vocalist singing a 3rd above; normal church harmony. But then I have heard a 3rd vocalist putting a 3rd on top of the 3rd harmony, making is an Aug 5th above the root. Not good. If you do not understand what I just said, you should not be singing harmonies.
2.       Be conscious of the key of the song, make it so both men and women can sing along in an easy range.
3.       If you are the lead vocalist, sing the melody and do not stray.  It’s amazing how many lead vocalist worship leaders will jump up and sing the harmony part. When the lead vocalist switches to the harmony, the music is no longer in key. The congregation will also chase the vocals up to the harmony part too, but since they are used to the way the song goes normally they will gets stuck, and they stop singing and are distracted.
4.       Strive for excellence. so you are ready for a move of the Spirit.
5.       “iSongs” That is what we call a song that has the wrong perspective for Worship.  Example; “I will worship. I will do this, I will do that…” how is talking about how awesome we are for worshiping God, worshiping God?  …And together they sang with one voice “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty”.   Praise Him, not boost about what we are doing for Him.  Think of the song “Grace Like Rain”.  Run through the lyrics of the chorus in your head. Great song, but now a worship song.  How is singing those lyrics to God, worshiping Him?
6.       If you are an electric guitar player, stop messing with your pedal board. You are supposed to be worshiping, not playing with your toys.  
7.       You can’t worship if you are trying to find your way, starring at a music stand. The songs have 4 chords, just learn the songs.  And if you have to read the lyrics, you did not practice the songs enough. Worship, don’t read.

I hope this helps you and motivates you and that you seriously consider all of this and pray on it. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tim's Studio Terminology

By Tim Dolbear

Tim Dolbear's Eclectica Studio's terminology:

1. "Polishing a turd" - The acted of mixing a less than good song, doing extra special production tricks to shine it up. Its shiny and pretty, but its still a turd.

2. "Adding some cheese to the taco"   - When mixing an 80's hairband, and you realized you have mixed it too modern and have to go back and add dated production ideas to make it acceptable to the client.  While adding this cheese, you say to yourself,  "eewww, gawd, this is terrible, they are going to love this!!"

3. "LSD"  - This one came from Keith Olsen's meaning "Lead singer's disease"  When a singer is acting like a lead singer...

4. "VD"  - "Vocal destruction" You know when you are mixing a track that was recorded elsewhere and you start by mixing the drums, then bring in the bass, and  the guitars and get the music just sounding great, big smile on your face... then you bring up the lead vocal fader and the track just goes into the toilet.  Here was this great track you were nail'n and the vocals just ruin it. Doesn't mater how much polishing of the turd you do, the vocals are still crap and are destroying  the track...

5. "Really..."  Meaning you "seriously want to keep that take?"

6.  "Hmm, what do you think?" means "I don't like it, how about you?"