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Current Tape Reviews

Old Mad Jack
Artist Name:
Garth Engdahl
Old Mad Jack
Date Posted:
April 2010
Rock and Pop
Equipment Used:

TASCAM Digital Portastudio, PC with Audacity (for mix); Shure SM58 mic, BOSS DR-770 drum machine.

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Production Notes & Credits:

“Old Mad Jack” is a male vocal rock song. Garth did it all with some help from Justin Burt who played the rhythm electric guitar.

Reviewed By: Marty Peters
Rating: 1
Recording: Recorded with minimal gear by today’s standards, Garth has submitted a rather uneven mix here. According to our research, the TASCAM Digital Portastudio is a digital eight-track with built-in effects and certainly capable of delivering a quality recording. What is unclear to us are some of Garth’s choices.

Yeah, we know that the drum kit was panned to one side on some of the early Beatles recordings, but in those cases we heard a well-recorded kit that included a kick drum. In contrast, Garth has chosen to place the snare drum from his BOSS DR-770 drum machine to one side, minus any other audible drum. Also missing from the mix is any type of bass guitar. So is the concept more of a White Stripes guitar/drum affair? Well, it’s hard to say. We do hear an acoustic and electric guitar in the track, rather smeared behind the up front vocals, so maybe that was the blueprint here.

Suggestions: Submissions such as “Old Mad Jack” are often the most difficult to assess. On the surface we hear a mix that is unbalanced and certainly lo-fi. The tricky part is that there have been more than a few “lo-fi” releases through the years that were actually recorded in some mighty fine facilities with excellant gear and reasonably substantial budgets. Is that the case here? Not so much.

That said, a digital 8-tracker with effects is more firepower than a lot of folks had to play with in years gone by. So the conundrum is once again intent. Does the majority or even the minority of music released these days feature one sided drums? ‘Fraid not. Soooooo... that leads us to the slippery slope. Garth is either unaware of this, doesn’t care, or has intentionally made his choices based on “artistic” license.

In any event, as stated many times over in this column, our mission statement is hopefully to provide some helpful insight into proper recording fundementals for our recording musician readers. Since the reading of minds, tea leaves and Tarot cards falls outside that description, we’ll not venture to guess what motivated Garth’s decision making, but rather to take a more straight-up approach.

In that spirit, then, we would suggest that Garth revisit his mix and make a few adjustments. Starting with the drums, move the snare back to the center of the mix and dial in an audible kick drum to go with it. If a bass guitar is available, lay one down so that you have a solid rhythm bed for your guitars.

As for the guitars, this is where some panning could be useful. Try moving them out opposite each other until they begin to “speak” a bit more clearly. Lastly, dropping the volume of the lead vocal down a bit would help the overall balance of the song.

Summary: Not sayin’, just sayin’...

Contact: Garth Engdahl,

About: Marty Peters

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