This page is is under construction, so if it seems unfinished, or if anything seems really jazzed up, check back again soon El Dudarino. In the mean time call Michelle and say hi. She can tell you whats cookin’. [561.542.0121].
More information, maybe too much information, and at least some things to think about.
Hopefully you have had the time to read about the Zen Duder facility.
2 Yamaha AW1600 workstations, matched set Avedis MA5 preamps, linked matched AvalonVT737SP’s sitting on concrete wall in Studio A, tube mic on floor stand getting ready for a session
Now lets talk about recording and music production in a little bit more detail. Please also visit our links page where we have references to interesting articles on the subject of music and recording. We update that list regularly.
We have also added a “diy?” page where we discuss the subject of doing your own recording so please visit that page too.
Craig [leggo my Craig-o, El Craigarino, Craigster] will be your engineer and producer, unless you have an engineer and producer in which case they will enjoy working with Craig.
4 chicks recording at Zen Duder
1964 Fender Vibroveerb as pictured from rear in Studio A, operated by a Variac with camo log performance seating.
Whatever the case, everyone from the musicians to the Michelle the hostess, the idea is that everone works as a team, we are all seriously dedicated to getting a great sound but we are also having fun, and each contributing what we can to make a fantastic record that everyone is proud of being involved in.Lets not forget, the whole idea of music is supposed to be what? It’s supposed to be fun. So we try to take the business out of music because music is about music, not business.
At Zen Duder, we have a collection of famous vintage recording gear, and specialize in capturing the fine detail of voice and acoustic instruments whether it be guitar, piano, brass, woodwinds, etc.
This would include singer songwriters, Duos, Trios, etc. but we are also very experienced in post production and effects, and can handle anything you throw at us, whether it be a rock band, an orchestra, a jazz pianist or saxophonist, or a DJ wanting to sequence trance. We can meet any of your mixing and mastering needs and do it excellently and creatively too.
Vincent Anthony “Vince” Guaraldi /ɡəˈrældi/ (July 17, 1928 – February 6, 1976) legendary jazz pianist
So the first thing to say about the process of recording is that it involves mixing of two very different disciplines, science and art. Music is art, and recording is a mixture of the two.
Legendary Saxophonist Stan Getz in Copenhagen with his Selmer Mark IV saxophone
In other words, there are very technical aspects of recording, mixing and mastering that must be observed in order to produce quality work. It’s scientific.
Tracking acoustic instruments stereo mid side using API and Avedis preamps, 3 channel condenser stereo pair and ribbon mic on this day
There is a lot of background education required to be able to do that. You are looking at phase plots, oscilloscopes, and spectrum analyzers, calibrating gear, checking cable terminations, that sort of thing. The last thing you want is a great performance ruined by a faulty connection.
We have an analog Tektronics oscilloscope at the Zen Duder facility for troubleshooting, calibration, repair and analysis
Agilent Dual Channel Function Generator for testing audio systems
Beyond the science however, there is a certain amount of art involved in getting a great, fantastic sound. Knowing how to use an oscilloscope isn’t going to get you there.
Jimi Hendrix not working an oscilloscope
For example, in the music world, certain engineers and producers have made names for themselves by working on records that sounded great time after time. They don’t necessarily use the most expensive gear, they just have a lot of knowledge, are creative, and have a great ear. So when someone like this works with great musicians, great recordings happen.
Furthermore, many iconic musicians such as Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen or Donald Fagen just to name three of many, are very good in the studio. Their production knowledge allows them to utilize the studio tools available to get very creative results. So as a musician, understanding mixing and production and how that works with your live sound is a great asset to yourself and your band, even if you are in the studio and someone else is doing the actual work.
So there are some secrets to getting a great sound, and the sound of some, maybe all, artists and bands is greatly affected by their choice of production crew.
Remember how Spinal Tap should have used Doubly? This is why we say the whole team is important. Every contribution affects the final result, which leads us to the Zen Duder motto….
Everything affects everything
It does, really, when you sit down and think about it.
Beyond the basics of reverb, eq and compression, etc. there are many, many techniques such as double tracking, suspension, parallel compression, time domain separation, echo sync, chorus reverb, re amping, and re mic’ing, vacuum tube washing, and a lot of other post production techniques as well as recording techniques used to achieve certain signature type of sounds.
Anyone remember Boston? They came onto the scene in the 70’s with a platiinum record and a crazy new sound. It was an octave doubler that Tom Scholz lead guitarist built himself in his basement. The point being that some bands have based their sound on just one simple thing that gave them a signature sound.
Boston (band) – Wikipedia
Craig has been recording since age 15 after working all summer as a bagboy to buy a TEAC A3340s 4 Track tape deck. This was the state of the art in the 70’s, back in the days of Black Sabbath, Dolby, tape hiss, cassette tapes and 8 track.There was no internet, no cell phones, no CDs, no computers. There was live music, turntables, microphones and tape decks.
Fast forward to the early 80’s, Craig had an honors degree in computer engineering and was working at IBM in Boca Raton on the IBM personal computer, and the CD had just recently been invented. Some of the more progressive record stores already had CD sections.
The original IBM Personal Computer with monochrome display [text no graphics] and not one but two 5 1/4 inch full height floppy diskette drives
So as an avid recording enthusiast even at the time, Craig bought one of the first commercially available CD players. It was a Yamaha, played one CD, had a wireless remote control woo hoo, and cost $1000.
One of the first CDs that made an impression was Donald Fagen’s “The Nightfly” produced by Gary Katz who also worked with Steeley Dan. This was one of the first, if not the first commercial all digital recording.
Beyond Donald Fagen’s genius of the actual music, at the time, it sounded fantastic, arguably one of the nicest sounding hifi recordings made to date, and to this day, there is a good amount of agreement it was one of the finest sounding CD’s ever produced. Sound engineers have used IGY to test live sound reinforcement systems and audiophiles use it to benchmark their systems since the 80’s.
There is quite a bit of internet lore about the nightfly project including how they had to learn to align their new 3M digital tape machines. There have also been “behind the scenes” documentaries made of Steeley Dan in the studio and how they worked.
So the point being that Craig has studied techniques used by various great engineers, producers and artists such as Gary Katz, George Martin and many others, and can talk in detail for example about how a record like the nightfly was recorded and mixed to achieve a certain sound, or how the Kinks and the Beatles were recorded to get a certain sound.
He knows how to record a trumpet without clipping and while achieving that smooth mellow Stan Getz sound if that’s what you’re looking for. He knows how to record a guitar without muddiness or boominess. He knows how to double track a bass line or vocal for a more polished feel. He designed his own bass drum sub mic for when you need a little more oomph [technical term] in the mix.
In the studio, craig prefers to record every track dry and with a close mic, and then to get the sound right in post production, but this is not a hard in fast rule. There are not many hard and fast rules when it comes to how to record or how to get the best result in a specific situation. This is why experience is necessary. After 30 or 40 years of doing it, you just know how certain things are going to sound.
Entirely Original 1964 Fender Vibro Champ Studio A Zen Duder one similar to this was used to record Led Zeppelin Stairway to Heaven solo this one has a huge sound and is ready to go
That said, it is very important to get the sound “on tape” in a very technically excellent way. This involves using the correct microphone for the task, having proper microphone positioning, and then connecting the microphone to a preamp that can EQ compress and limit the signal so the recorded signal has the proper characteristics for a lot of flexibility in post production.
When Fagen/Katz did the nightfly, he made the musician to set the groove to record to a click track. So this is where the science can butt heads with the art. Some musicians aren’t going to sound very groovy to a click track and they aren’t going to want to do it that way. Can you blame them?
Matched sets of API 512c and Avedis MA5 preamps
The point being, there is a way an engineer would like to record, and there may be a different way the musicians would like to record. Furthermore, the ultimate sound achieved is at least partially dependent on how the music was originally recorded so there is no single answer, there is no obvious right answer, there are just alternatives and tradeoffs. Craig will go over all of that with you before you start your session.
For example, did each member of the band record separately to overdubs, or did the band mic up and play it live in one take. Those are the two extremes, and then there is everything in between.
So for an artist new to Zen Duder, Craig may start off by listening to some music together on the house studio sound system. He would like to hear your work, and then together listen to some various commercial work to agree…do you want an LA sound? do you want a NY sound do you want a UK sound? do you want a vintage sound? Maybe you have already developed your own signature sound? There are examples of the variables involved.
So you may be asking yourself, what exactly is an LA sound? What is a NY sound? The way to answer that is to say that there are various subtleties to producing a record. The amount and type of reverberation, compression, eq, etc all affect the final result, as does the gear used to record and the techniques used with that gear. In the UK they will be using a lot of different gear than in NY….etc.
So this is where the expertise comes in. As a musician, you can say I want to sound this way, and then the Craigarino can help to get you there by using the proper gear and techniques in pre and post production.
Re Tracking Bass Wav’s today using our studio bass amp 1965 Ampeg B15NF which formerly resided in a motown studio
That said, you cannot and should not expect magic. There is a famous quote in the recording world that goes something like “how do you make an acoustic guitar sound great on tape?”, well, the first thing you do is to get a great sounding acoustic guitar to record.
Great sounding Yamaha vintage 1986 acoustic guitar pictured along with 64 SG, 84 Rickenbacker 4003 Bass, pair of studio projects mics, pair of neumann km184 mics, pair of MXL Lundahl Ribbon mics, Neumann U87Ai and peuloso vacuum tube mics.
In other words, before we even begin work, we are going to agree on what our ultimate goal is. We are going to agree on the type of sound you ultimately want, and then agree on a method to get you there in the studio. From there on we will all do our part, maybe having some creative ideas along the way as we record and in post production so we end up with something great. Something we are all proud of.
This can be educational for what Craig refers to as the “pure musician” or “pure artist”. That is …an artist with no recording background.
So while home recording has made a lot of inroads in the past few decades and a lot of musicians attempt a “DIY” approach, when you really think about it, it’s sort of unreasonable to expect a musician to also understand all of the engineering intracies of recording in terms of electrical parameters such as impedance, ground loops, conducted and radiated EMF, the difference between DB and DBa or what a kiloohm is.
It’s a completely different realm than that of songwriting and playing and frankly many musicians are not interested in that realm, and that’s not where there aptitude lies.
That said, it is always good to have some understanding of the recording and record making process, usually the more the better, and you will leave Zen Duder with a little bit of education as well as your finished work. You will learn how you like to work to achieve “your sound”.
Maybe you are a guitarist and would like to work with our PAF tonelab to dial in a sound you have always been looking for, and then when you leave here you know how to get it. something like that.
If you are reading this as an experienced studio musician, and already know how you like to achieve your sound, it’s just that much easier. The point being that we are here to help, regardless of your experience level in the studio.
Maybe you will be hooked on the sound of a 59 Les paul with a cord running straight into a vintage marshall tube head. We strive to achieve authentic sounds in an authentic way at Zen Duder because a patch usually sounds like a patch and the real thing usually sounds like the real thing. We have an extensive collection of exotic tube and transistor preamps/compressors/eq each that impart a different sound to the recording.
Zen duder Studio A loft holds several original and custom vintage tube amps along with original effects, guitar pictured previously owned by editor of Vintage Guitar magazine and prior to that Kenny Olsen of Kid Rock
We also like to be as flexible as we can. Maybe you are a solo artist staying for a week and maybe you do all your best work at 2 or 3am. So maybe Craig teaches you how to press the record and rewind buttons on one of the DAW’s and you want do an all nighter recording over and over until you feel like it’s the best take you will ever make, jake or you get Craig to do an all nighter with you. We can make as much noise as we want at any time of day or night at Zen Duder.
Everyone is different. It all depends. Maybe. Sometimes. Usually. Not always. One or the other. I’m not sure. Lets try this.
So hopefully in this section, you are getting a flavor for the complexities and intricacies of making a great recording.
Featured in this photo is the Zenners patent pending tunable eminence recording cabinet, [the “metrocab”]. These 10″ tunable baltic birch cabinets are available on a custom order basis now $2,000 per pair. Good for all instruments including bass. Available in lime green and pastel pink with a natural wood face. Sound clips available upon request.
At Zen Duder we can help you get there, which is why our tag line is “technical excellence in recording”. Give us a call. We can help. 561.542.0121. Michelle has a special place in her heart for starving artists so don’t be afraid to play that card lol.
We also offer custom designed [affordable] music and voice lessons based on your experience level and goals.
The general flow of our work is as follows. This is a general template, and it may vary quite a bit depending on exactly what we are doing or trying to achieve.
Presenting the Zen Duder method
Setting up the gear for a session 2 days away at Zen Duder
Step 1. We record to a Digital Audio workstation or hard disk recorder. No personal computers are involved at this point, we are using all dedicated hardware.
We have 4 separate DAW’s at Zen Duder and will use one or more depending on what we are doing. Sometimes we will use sub mixer/recorders. For example, we may record 8 tracks of drums on a DAW, run the master out to the master DAW hopefully mixed properly, and if it isn’t then we can take a sub track[s] from the drum daw and add it to the mix, or we may just track it all together using 16 tracks. We rarely if ever have had a need to record more than 16 live tracks at once with the exception of close mic’ing a drum kit with 12 mics.
So the analog signals from microphones, synthisizers, bass, etc, are all converted to ones and zeros and stored on hard disk and sdcard via the DAW’s.
No computers are involved yet [except the ones inside the DAW’s] . There is a minimum of processing at this point, mostly via our microphone preamplifiers which use tube limiting to prevent clipping of the recorded signal and light eq as necessary depending on what we’re recording and where we are recording it.
We typically aim for a signal level here of -12-10 DBFS. We absolutely never want a digital clip. Please see our links list for articles on setting the proper recording levels if you are interested in this subject.
Tracking Vocals and Acoustic Guitar today yes that is a 20 amp variac & turns out making stools is great for advertising
What we want coming out of this step are technically perfect recordings, recordings that sound good, have good signal to noise ratios, no background noise, no strange noises, no clipping, good dynamic range, and also last and probably the most important….recordings where the musicians are playing their best.
Matched set of Avalon VT737SP Preamps and single Universal Audio LA610 vacuum tube preamp with yamaha AW1600 workstation on top, ready to record.
We will have multiple takes on virtual tracks at this point and it can seem chaotic coming out of this step, but the majority of the actual recording is now done.
Step 2. We do overdubs, more takes, insert sequenced material, everything we need to do to get what we want out of the final mix. We begin to organize our tracks for the mixdown lab and now we have a ton of great material to work with, up to 48 tracks, fragments, pieces of tracks, sub mixes, etc all to be put together and assembled into a song.
The actual recording process should be complete unless we think of something new to add or find we need to go back and re record something for some reason. It is at this point that you as the musician are really hoping that the duder can put this all together with you and make something great out of it.
Post production and the Zen Duder Mixdown lab. This time can vary widely depending on whether you are Analog Chill doing a Pink Floyd type thing [can take hours, days or weeks] or whether you are Steve Martin playing a banjo which should take less than an hour or thereabouts.
So we take all of the tracks, and load them into the computer for mixing and post production work which could include effects and a lot of things. The mixdown desk features Yamaha HS8 active nearfield monitors, two different lab grade headphone amps [one vacuum tube one solid state] and the Duder likes to mix in AKG K702 or Ultrasone 650 headphones.
We have a variety of post production software including the best of the best older software that we keep running. In the computer realm, Craig can work on the waves like a digital surgeon. Other sequenced tracks may be combined at this point as well. This can be a very time consuming step and is arguably the most important single step in the process. We are really concerned in this step with timing, synchronizing, levels, etc. because once it’s mixed, it’s mixed, and the final mix is pretty close to the end. All we have to do coming out of this step is to polish it, get it technically up to snuff and make it sound really fantastic. When this step is complete, we have what we refer to at Zen Duder as our red wave. This is a stereo wav of the mixed down track, in a pre master condition ready to accept the final mastering effects.
Mastering. We have an innovative Mastering loop at Zen Duder. We are happy to remaster existing work, and can easily do this remotely. We have a lot of experience in this area.
We are pioneering some new mastering techniques for different types of material. We are experimenting with re amping and re micing using a flat neumann system for some types of material, and also for post production. We offer these as stand alone services too.
We are also experimenting with a technique we are working on we call vacuum tube washing, which is a chain of very high fidelity tube mastering amps connected in a transformer chain. We are having great results with this on sterile digital material, with it coming out sounding big, three dimensional, warm, and wonderful.
Sometimes we master exclusively inside the box so to speak, and sometimes we use a combination of in and out of the box treatments in our mastering chain.
It’s interesting how at a time when most people are going into the box so to speak [ditiching recording hardware for computer simulations], we are coming more out of the box at Zen Duder, ditching the simulations we were using a decade ago and buying the best recording hardware ever made, which has been used for decades on some of the finest material ever produced.
It’s consistent. It always does the same thing. It doesn’t need upgrades. It certainly doesn’t require a subscription. It sits in a rack and does the same thing every time you turn it on, really well, and there are rarely any issues. We put it away and when we turn it on it is set exactly as it was, and it works the same way every single time. What we found is that going into the box although is is supposed to boost productivity has a lot of issues associated with it if you become solely dependent on it.
This gets back to the ears. The marketers tried to kill vacuum tubes in the 70’s but they wouldn’t die. Craig can tell stories of how by the early 80’s vacuum tubes were getting hard to come by. Now they are everywhere again.
The reason is because vacuum tube amplifiers have a certain amazing sound that somehow is not defined properly in the specs, but it is heard by the ears.
So today the marketers are trying to kill hardware and replace it with plug ins.
The point being that our process is flexible. It has to be. We can do it well any way, but we prefer the most organic, most analog process possible in a digital age. We like to be as basic as we can be. We have done recordings that were so good they required very little mastering, such as a singer/acoustic guitar player. We specialize in recording acoustic instruments and vocals.
So our process there was record with excellent high end mics and pre amplifiers, and then on the back end just tweak it ever so slightly to get the proper metrics. The result was as natural, open and organic sounding as you can [CD] get unless you want to listen on a vinyl record or an analog tape machine.
The cool thing about our mastering loop is that we can put the track on loop forever, and tweak any or all settings in real time while we’re listening to the end result on the nearfield monitor system or on some of the best studio headphones ever made through some of the best amps ever made.
We can A/B/C our work against headphones/reference monitors/or a 7,000 song library in real time with the push of a button while we are listening to see how we’re stacking up.
Craig is also an Android software developer [google Boffin Hollow Lab at google play store] and has written special software for bluetooth streaming at studio quality. We can cast a studio quality track digitally lossless to our house sound system.
We can dial the effects processor and or the finalizer out of the mix to any degree we like, and we really like a mix of digitally finalized material mixed with the original track to whatever degree sounds right. In other words we have A/B buttons all over the place. Like it better then, or like it now? This is extremely helpful as you fine tune it to perfection.
The temptation for engineers and producers today is to” pump up the volume” so to speak in mastering [especially in pop, Hip Hop, etc], and the end result can sound like a commercial.
We typically use as little compression as possible. We use it as a tool to make things sound good, not so we can be heard above someone else.
Please heed this warning whether you use our services or not. Highly compressed material has a funky psychoacoustic effect. It does the artist a disservice because it causes ear fatigue. Ear fatigue is when you can’t wait to turn it off.
Not a good end result for you as an artist. There is a lot of material out there today “radio ready” that fits this description.
The final cool thing about our mastering loop is that when you think you have it just right, when everyone in the room is tapping their toes and nodding their heads to the beat and smiling, when you want everyone else in the world to be able to hear the delicious sounds you are hearing right now, you simply hit record and boom you have a master.
Then you tweak something because the drummer doesn’t think the snare has enough pop although the bassist disagrees and thinks his bass has some mud in it or needs to be bouncier or needs a little more presence.
So you hit record again and [yes boom] you have another master. Then boom again because the singer wants more sheen. You get the picture.
In this digital age we could do a bizillion masters if we want to, but this is where you have to let your ears be the guide and let all the technology take a back seat. We’re making music not masters.
In other words, we never want to lose sight of the fact that it is the performance we are recording and all this stuff are just tools to get the sound we want. Depending on when you are alive, there is different stuff available. In 2017 there is a lot of stuff, most of it not so good.
Golden master recording. We finally load the mastered track back into the computer for trim, intro and fade, digitally remove anything that shouldn’t be there, make it perfect, notations in the meta data section of the file, credits, and anything else that needs to be done precisely, and this is now the finished CD quality original golden master recording ready for you to take home with you.
Finally, for upload, etc. we convert the stereo pcm wav file to mp3 using software designed to preserve as much as possible during this lossy conversion process. This step does not take much time. We typically give you a USB drive or sdcard with your work on it as well, making it very easy to upload it to your own computer. Then we make a professional backup of your work kept indefinitely on the 2 terabyte Zen Duder archival system.
The “Zen Duder Method” as we know it, along with many mastering chain variations on this process has a lot of advantages and things going for it as compared to an all software mastering process.
At Zen Duder we always prefer the real thing to an emulation which is why we have such a large collection of and substantial investment in vintage hardware.
Finally, as we describe our toolbox of gear, let us point out that we have the advantage of having a lot of gear. We can compare the sound of one thing to another to another. We are constantly swapping out the worst and keeping the best. We are able to cut through all the hype because we can do A/B tests.
Studio A – 1959 Les Paul, 1964 Fender Vibroverb, API 500 series lunchbox, 2 yamaha AW1600 digital workstations pair of Studio Projects C1 Microphones going into Avedis M5 preamps
So with that intro, here is some of the gear on hand at the studio to accomplish these feats of sonic wizardry