HP Envy 17" PC with Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface running Windows 7, Cakewalk SONAR X3 Studio, XLN Audio Addictive drums, and IK Multimedia iGrand, iLectric, and Sampletank. Yamaha HS50M monitors. Fender Jazz Bass ('62 Reissue) with Markbass Compressore; Roland M-OC1 Orchestral and E-MU Vintage Pro rackmount sound modules.
Production Notes & Credits:
"Blue Suede" is a jazzy rock instrumental in the vein of Steely Dan/Blood, Sweat and Tears. Mark wrote, performed, programmed and recorded the track.
Reviewed By: Marty Peters
Recording: This month's Spotlight is a horn-driven instrumental that features an ideal blend of performance and programming skill, along with a tight, tight rhythm section laying down an infectious groove. Mark had this to say about the creative process for this track:
"I first recorded a scratch electric piano against the click track to put down the basic song structure. I then worked on the drum track using Addictive Drums to create the main rhythm; I mostly utilized their stock patterns for the fills. Then I put down the bass track, which went direct through the Markbass Compressore tube compressor pedal, into the Focusrite 2i2 interface."
"I then went back and added a proper electric piano part (IK Multimedia iLectric app) along with horns (E-MU M-OC1), sax (IK Multimedia SampleTank app), Moog synth (E-Mu Vintage Pro module) and acoustic piano (IK Multimedia iGrand Piano).
"In the mix, I did some additional bass compression sidechained from the kick drum, and used the ThrillseekerLA compressor plug-in by Variety of Sound to even out the Piano. The EQ was stock from SONAR X3 Studio, as was the Sonitus compressor that I used to smash the snare and parallel process it to give it more weight and punch. On the master bus, I used the Variety of Sound Density MKIII Bus Compressor, Cakewalk Channel Tools (Stereo Widener), and the Blue Tubes PEQ322-3 EQ and BW2S-3 Brickwall Limiter."
Right off the bat Mark catches our attention with a killer drum fill -- Loud, proud, and so realistic we had to go back to his equipment list to re-check for an actual trap set. Rarely have we heard a sound this good from drum programming; Mark is thinking like a drummer here, and has obviously taken the time to master his Addictive Drums software, including knowing when the provided MIDI content is stylistically appropriate for getting ideas across that he couldn't easily create himself.
Those "Dancing With the Stars" fans out there will readily agree that a great performance usually happens when both partners are equally strong. In this case, the other rhythm dance partner, Mark's bass, is certainly up to the task. We love the bold, funky performance as well as the tone from the Fender Jazz Bass, driving the track while staying in the pocket.
Moving on, Mark's horn arrangement also shows some advanced musical knowledge and the tones are again very convincing, particularly in the ensemble sections. The use of both acoustic and electric pianos in the same track could have backfired in lesser hands, but here each is given its own voice, and judicious panning allows each its own place to shine in the mix.
Speaking of the mix, we also give Mark big props for handling what could have been an overwhelming number of sound sources gracefully. The tones are rich throughout, and the overall mix is delivered without artifact. Sweet!
"Blue Suede" is yet another stellar example of a one man/woman band production. We urge all of you to use these Spotlights as both inspiration and as examples of just what can be done with effort and dedication. Mark not only programmed like a "real" player, but has obviously taken the time to study and master his tools, something that is often overlooked in today's "What manual?", "gotta have it now" environment. The tools are there... you just have to use them properly and with inspiration.
Summary: Brother be bringin' it!
Contact: Mark Austin, firstname.lastname@example.org