Interesting Read on how the Grammys does the Audio for the show..

As a professional sound engineer, I find myself throwing my hands in the air during large events when things just sound bad or some severe mistake is made.  The 2012 superbowl was the first that I went off well and sounded great compared to years past.  The Grammys have one heck of a setup that you might appreciate, check it out:

Analysis of 50 years of Pop Music: What makes a song a hit?

imageI have no idea if any of you would find this interesting; I sure did.  A team analyzed the last 50 years of US pop songs, to see what makes a song a top hit..    

They found songs that are close to 120 Beats per minute seems to be the magic BPM  for the last 50 years! Plus major keys dominate the charts, make the song danceable, are about 4.5 minutes in length, and turn it up to 11.   Some things to think of when you are choosing songs and want to keep the energy going..

Here are some screen shots from a few of the things looked at:

The main page that explains what was done is here:

I would add a personal observation;  most of the top songs that I have listened to require careful listening..  Pick most top pop song playing, and listen carefully… not to what is obvious in the mix (vocals, instruments etc.) but there is almost always some sort of sound that is either ½ (or less) of the volume of the rest of the instruments or is louder than everything.  It is usually short in duration – or a *very* simple accent note,  happens once per music phrase or measure.  You won’t notice it unless you are actively listening (concentrating..)    My theory is that it is music for the ‘subconscious” part of our brain.. for some it can be sound effects as long as they are introduced and removed selectively..  which is what I do when I run sounds for bands I do this to provide additional interest (sprinkling of delay, mic volume accents.)   It is also why having a good speaker to reproduce the high frequencies is key to interest (as well as preventing ear fatigue)  the ride cymbal accents, snare accents, high-hat accents on certain songs for example are extremely important.  It’s the extra muted “chuck” on a guitar that gets inserted in certain phrases etc.   So on the surface a song is simple, but decomposed it has nuisances that break up the symmetry.  It gives our musical brains something to chew on..   Know knows, this could be completely bogus. 

What do you think?

An example that I wasn’t totally happy with, but..

#25 –  congos

#24 – on the right channel there are two things: guitar two notes – but more importantly on upbeat of the 4th beat of the song there is a slight “scratch ”or a sweep of frequencies sound. Its is hard to hear, but it’s right before the 1st beat begins.

high-hat open

#23 – i hear a guitar harmonic hit once in a while, almost banjo like

#22 – not hearing anything in the section they chose to play

#21 – guitar arpeggio ?

#20 – right channel high-hat

#19 – ?

#18 – FX (delays)

#17 – backup vox

#16- backup vox

#15 – triangle

#14 – FX (delay)

#13 – bass guitar fretless sound

#12 – this one is hard to hear:  I think it is a backup vox that hits twice on a high pitched “hohw” “Hohw”

#11 –congos

#10 – jazz organ

#9 – flange

#8 – strings

#7 – there is a keyboard echoing the phrase in a high octave

#6 – swish sound  and a block hit

#5 – high-hat  open.. delay

#4 – guitar that comes in right before it ends

#3 – banjo

#2 – ?

#1 – high-hat work (alternating open/closed)


Ok, so here I digress, but I LOVE music, sound etc.. so just some additional geek thoughts for you. Maybe reading about this might make you a better musician, better listener, or maybe you might understand a little better of the approach I take when I am running sound for band. I am not the technical guy who lines up the meters at 0 for all mics, and freaks out when the band’s dynamics change from song to song. That is a technical sound engineer. There is gear to help minimize the various if the gain structure is set right. Running sound is also a bit of an art. I bring up certain mics (besides the obvious solos) on certain songs.. cymbals, high-hat etc. I try to recreate what I hear in my mind for that song. Each band has a different blend, and I try to incorporate that some in each song a cover band plays. Not all songs because sometimes it just doesn’t matter, but other times it does! It is not just making sure everything is heard by the audience and musicians, it is something more.

El Monstero Rocks the Pageant

El Monstero is in my top five favorite cover bands.  The members are a plethora of local musicians who normally do original music.  They sell out 6+ shows a year every Christmas to do Pink Floyd songs.  I’ve seen the last few years shows, and the production team and the band do a fantastic job!  They play at one of the best venues in St.Louis for Live Music: The Pageant.  It’s highly recommended; if you find yourself in St.Louis, MO near Christmas, I would highly encourage putting this on your calendar.

I took a few photos, two of them are here.  I have them on my Pro site here:

A quote from their Facebook page:

For those first timers, here’s the skinny….El Monstero is a St. Louis based Pink Floyd tribute band. The brainchild of Stir bassist Kevin Gagnepain, El Monstero’s first appearance was a single night, sold out show @Mississippi Nights in 1999. By 2008 the show spanned 6 nights @The Pageant….who knows what 09 has in store.
The current line up includes Mark Thomas Quinn (lead vox, guitar, lap steel), Jimmy Griffin (lead vox, guitar), Kevin Gagnepain (bass, vox), Bryan Greene (elec, steel, and nylon guitar) John Pessoni (drums, vox) Bill Reiter (keys, vox) Jake Elking (keys), Dave Farver (sax) and of course the ladies….Erminie Cannon, Tandra Williams, and Kelly Wild….they steal the show; Most members of El Monstero have been in bands that were signed to major labels, and they are all top notch players. The band spares no expense on production, hiring the best sound, lighting, visual, pyro, wardrobe, set design, and stage management personnel that St. Louis has to offer, as well as the best sound and lighting equipment in town. The show is truly a St. Louis holiday tradition.
The music mainly focuses on Gilmore/Waters era Floyd and runs about 2 1/2hrs….it is a must see for any Stl area Floyd fans and is an edgier, more theatrical alternative to other tribute shows that roll through town. The show is sponsored by K-SHE95, and K-SHE DJ FAVAZZ has been a true friend since day one.

a video from the show:

was a great show!




And from Wikipedia is additional information about the members:

Current Lineup

Previous Members

Hair, makeup, and clothing

  • Carol Ivcich and Stephanie Asbed of iVCiCH clothing design have been responsible for Hair, makeup, and clothing since 2002

20 Years Sound Reinforcement – Hearing Damage?

OK, so I have only done probably about 10 years equivalent of running sound for bands ranging from Run D.M.C., Little Feat, Blues Traveler, Joan Baez, The Urge, Chuck Berry, Backdoors, Gravity Kills, Jakes Leg, Spin Doctors, Flaming Lips, Reverend Horton Heat to name a few.  I worked for several dozen clubs (Blue Note in Columbia, MO was my favorite,) and ten different sound companies (Logic Systems being the largest) and several festivals of various sizes.   I currently run sound for a local band called StaggerCatt.   I have mixed at different sound pressure levels ranging from 90dB up to 115dB A weighted (LOUD) depending on what the situation needed.   

I have also played on stage in various venues in St.Louis and Columbia as a keyboard, guitar and bass player.  It’s been a fun ride to say the least.

Loud music ruins ears right?    Yes, definitely.  I try to wear hearing protection, but sometimes it isn’t possible.  I had my hearing tested 20 years ago before I started (as part of an interview for a recording studio which I worked for about 6 months; it wasn’t as fun as live sound where you either get it right or…)  and for the most part, it hasn’t changed much.

Here are the results.  I have some damage in my right ear above 11.2K, and a dip in my left ear at 2k.  But, even after all these years I am still above average hearing for the majority of frequencies (15dB is normal.)   In higher frequencies, my left year is significantly better than average.  I thought it was interesting and thought I would share.



The y-axis represents dB, and the x-axis is frequency.  0dB is defined as the quietest audible sound for persons with excellent hearing under laboratory conditions. 20 db is the level of sound by rustling leaves.  Note: there are few published guidelines for ‘normal’ hearing above 8kHz.  I found a link to a study done that plotted the normal hearing loss above 8k.  As you can see, most people can’t hear above 12.5K  where my hearing reaches well into 20k. 

The Sound of Snow..

image Having our first real snow of the year reminded me of something I heard as a kid:  when you walk on snow you can gauge the temperature by the pitch of the ‘squeak’ or ‘crunch’ it makes.   So of course I decided to do some fact finding, or at least search the web.   I found an interesting summary from this blog:  as well as a link to the National Snow and Ice Data Center: 

Apparently at about –10°C   there is a change in sound from ‘Crunch’ to a ‘Squeak.’  They suggest there is a thin layer of water on the crystals lubricates above –10°C and does not below –10°C , the squeak sound comes from the crushing of the ice crystals.    

I was unable to find anything that indicated the pitch of the squeak changes.  On a different note, I noticed last time we visited the beach that my bare feet on the sand causes a similar type of sound.  


In any case, next time you go for a walk in the show, listen..

The Vocal People

You got to hear this to believe it.  I DO hear a delay at the very end (the intro says no effects) and I don’t see any mouth movement, but heck it’s pretty darn good anyway.

Tracklist: 1. Johann Sebastian Bach – Toccata and Fugue in D minor 2. Hallelujah 3. The Entertainer 4. Mr. Sandman 5. Glen Miller – In The Mood 6. Elvis Presley – Tutti Frutti 7. Beach Boys – I Get Around 8. Doobie Brothers – Long Train Runnin’ 9. Madonna – Holiday 10. Michael Jackson – Billie Jean 11. Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams 12. Nirvana – Smells like teen spirit 13. Spice Girls – If you wanna be my lover 14. Los Del Rio – La Macarena 15. Rednex – Cotton Eyed Joe 16. Britney Spears – Hit Me Baby One More Time 17. Baha Men – Who Let the Dogs Out? 18. C+C Music Factory – Gonna Make You Sweet (Everybody Dance Now) 19. Will Smith – Switch 20. Madagascar 5 vs. KK Project – I Like To Move It

A twist on Technology to create music

James Houston, a grad student from Glasgow School of Art, used image an old Epson LX-86 printer, HP scanjet 4c scanner, hard drives, and computers to recreate Radiohead’s song “Nude.”   Keep in mind the first 70 seconds are simply the old sinclair pc loading the “song.”  Check it out: