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Mark McCornack


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 19 Dec 2020 9:55 pm    
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Do you have a favorite reference recording for pedal steel? What I'm looking for are best examples of mixing/mastering technique in the recordings, and not necessarily the best musical performances. Any genre is fine, but my interest is primarily in the E9 voice (though always interested in C6 too). It's very handy when mixing or mastering to be able to switch between reference recordings and your own mix in process when you're tweaking. Again, for this request, I'm more focused on the process than the performance. Thanks Smile
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Bill Terry


From:
Bastrop, TX
Post  Posted 20 Dec 2020 6:57 am    
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One record that continually shows up here on every steel player's favorite list is 'The Return of Wayne Douglas' by Doug Sahm.

Here are a couple of samples:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9H9ZqurXss
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_EbMXh1dtM


This record was engineered, recorded and mixed by Tommy Detamore at his Cherry Ridge Studio, of course he's the steel player as well. I listen to cuts from this record for a 'level set' fairly often..Smile great playing, great engineering, and Doug was one of a kind.
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Bob Hoffnar


From:
Austin, Tx
Post  Posted 20 Dec 2020 8:17 am    
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KD Lang “absolute torch and twang” with Greg Leisz is worth checking out. The production is a bit dated sounding because of the cannon bass drum problem of the 90’s though.

Nashville Skyline with Pete Drake is a top level production.

The Dire Straights LP brothers in arms with Paul Franklin was a major game changer in the quality of steel guitar recording. Nashville did a major upgrade in how it recorded Pedalsteel after that one.

You gotta spend some time with the early Ray Price recordings with Jimmy Day and Buddy Emmons. Take note of how much distortion is on the steel track. Glorious sounding and nothing like the common fallacy that the classic steel sound was super clean.

As always keep in mind that louder in the mix sounds better but isn’t.
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Bill Terry


From:
Bastrop, TX
Post  Posted 20 Dec 2020 8:33 am    
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Quote:
Ray Price recordings with Jimmy Day and Buddy Emmons. Take note of how much distortion is on the steel track.

Yeah, good point.. one of the best sounds I ever got live was from a borrowed Twin Reverb that was a little 'tired', it worked but needed some service (or not) to be back to full power. It wasn't hi-fi by any sense, but it sounded great.

Another good reference would be Lloyd on all the Charlie Pride stuff, especially the 'In Person at Panther Hall' record if you can find it. There was an interesting thread with Lloyd's comments inserted about that recording, and the amp he used (Twin with JBLs). That sound and the Black Album by Buddy are both considered 'standards' of the steel sound by a lot of players. Here's the thread:

https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=166659&start=0
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David Mitchell

 

From:
Tyler, Texas
Post  Posted 20 Dec 2020 1:06 pm    
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I played every instrument on this one including the steel. I've recorded steel many different ways as a commercial recording engineer but I did all this at home and I just went direct into a Countryman Type 85 Direct box and then into a microphone input of a Yamaha 01v96i mixer and then to the Delta 4x4 audio convertors into the computer. 24 bit. Used a Mullen Pre-RP D-10 lacquer with Aluminum necks and E-66 pickups. Goodrich passive 120 volume pedal. I liked the sound of the Yamaha mic preamps that all the instruments were recorded on.
It has a clean tight sound like much more expensive recording consoles. Those old country records had a good clean sound but unfortunately a lot of it was lost at the pressing plant when it went vinyl. They had to squeeze the life out of the master to get it to fit on the lacquer master unless it was a real short song.
Seems like all the direct from tape to digital re-issues are always ruined because they boost the highs to crap trying to make it sound like the mess coming out of Nashville now. All we can do is take a wild guess how the old Nashville stuff sounded. I know it sounded incredible in the control room when I had a chance to be there.

https://youtu.be/RpZpgKNbWQs
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Bob Hoffnar


From:
Austin, Tx
Post  Posted 21 Dec 2020 6:31 am    
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Mark,
A big thing to consider is the role of the steel in the music. Old country featured the steel. That makes it sorta easy to place in a mastered track. It is much more tricky to place it in the stereo field and have it blend and support while keeping it present.



What is your signal chain on the steel track (both tracking and mixing ) and mix bus ?
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Mark McCornack


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 21 Dec 2020 11:12 am    
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Bob Hoffnar wrote:
Mark,
....What is your signal chain on the steel track (both tracking and mixing ) and mix bus ?


Hi Bob,
I am playing steel on a project for guy who's doing primarily old jazz standards. I'm also partially hooked into doing some of the engineering, though I may punt on mastering to someone with more skills than I. I'm using REAPER as my DAW.

It's fairly sparse in terms of tracks. There is solo vocal, rhythm acoustic guitar, upright acoustic bass, percusion (TBD, but currently a MIDI reference track). Lead instruments will vary on different tracks, but will include E9 pedal steel, chromatic harmonica, banjo, fiddle, electric guitar. No single cut will likely include more than two of these lead instruments. Three at the most.

The signal chain for the steel is pretty sparse. A passive volume pedal run into a Focusrite audio interface, straight DI into the computer, dry. No mix bus really defined , just a handfull of stems (some of which are not even done yet).
When I do get around to mixing, it's handy to have reference recordings that can be easily switched in and out of monitor while doing EQ, verb, instrument balance, pan, etc.
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Bob Hoffnar


From:
Austin, Tx
Post  Posted 21 Dec 2020 12:30 pm    
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Mark,
That sounds like a fun one ! If it's possible maybe try recording 2 tracks at the same time. One direct like you plan on and another with a mic on an amp with the sound coming out of the amp being the ultimate sound you want to hear. You might get lucky with the amp. Maybe keep the reverb sparse so that the mixing/mastering guy can put all the players in the same room later.
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Mark McCornack


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 21 Dec 2020 4:21 pm    
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That would be a good plan, but unfortunately, I like spending more time doing takes and re-retakes than my wife probably cares to take listening to the steel blaring out of my Deluxe Reverb or Twin Shocked
I'm thinking about trying to do some "re-amping" after my takes are done and edited from the raw DI tracks. What I'm thinking is to run the dry tracks through the Focusrite DAC and into my Deluxe Reverb, micing the amp, and sending back through the ADC and back into the DAW Idea
This short term amp use might be a better choice in terms of maintaining marital bliss, particularly since the amp will probably want to be set at at least a moderate level to get the best sound out of it. Unfortunately, my house doesn't have a space where I can be really isolated, sound wise. Worth a try anyway.
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mtulbert


From:
Plano, Texas 75023
Post  Posted 22 Dec 2020 5:07 am    
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Mark

Good morning. Just saw this post and wanted to respond. It is possible to get great recordings from home. The gear is much more powerful and flexible then the studio I worked in Nashville in the early 70's.

My favorite reference track is anything from Darryl Singletary's album, That's Why I Sing This Way. IMHO one of the best engineered albums that I have ever heard.

Put on a good pair of headphones or speakers and listen to this track.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-gEuc1OJFs

I would interested in hearing your opinion.

Happy Holidays.
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Rittenberry Laquer D10, Rittenberry Prestige SD10, Revelation Preamp,Revelation Octal Preamp,Lexicon PCM 92 Reverb, Furlong Cabinet
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Mark McCornack


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 22 Dec 2020 9:15 am    
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I would interested in hearing your opinion.

Happy Holidays.[/quote]

Hi Mark,
Yes, that's very well produced and the kind of thing I'm after. The thing that struck me the most was that in spite of the fact that there is a lot going on there, EVERYTHING IS CLEAN and clearly discernible. You can pick out every instrument and every note. Cudos to producer and arranger, as well as excellent mastering. Not a bunch of extraneous junk, but nice clear music. This will stay in my cadre for reference and thanks for suggesting it.
Cheers,
Mark
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Slim Heilpern


From:
Aptos California, USA
Post  Posted 22 Dec 2020 4:21 pm    
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Mark McCornack wrote:

...
The thing that struck me the most was that in spite of the fact that there is a lot going on there, EVERYTHING IS CLEAN and clearly discernible. You can pick out every instrument and every note.
...


Howdy Mark!

The point you raised above goes right to the heart of the matter, and in my view it's the very reason why the notion of trying to match the sound of an instrument using a reference track (or several) will only get you so far.

When I'm mixing a tune I find that I end up tweaking the steel track differently than I had on other tunes to enable it to be heard clearly in the tune's particular mix of instruments while maintaining optimum level. You don't want any track to mask another track or muddy things up. This usually involves EQ, careful panning, compression, and wetness to find a nice sweet spot. Getting this right usually takes a lot of trial and error and patience, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

I do occasionally compare with some of my favorite recordings for overall perspective, but I gave up trying to match the sound of a particular instrument, since context changes everything.

Getting a great mix can be hard work and as with playing an instrument, plenty of practice will get you closer to perfection Smile.

Just my 2 cents, of course.

- Slim
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Rick Campbell


From:
Sneedville, TN, USA
Post  Posted 22 Dec 2020 9:08 pm    
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Bill Terry wrote:
One record that continually shows up here on every steel player's favorite list is 'The Return of Wayne Douglas' by Doug Sahm.

Here are a couple of samples:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9H9ZqurXss
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_EbMXh1dtM


This record was engineered, recorded and mixed by Tommy Detamore at his Cherry Ridge Studio, of course he's the steel player as well. I listen to cuts from this record for a 'level set' fairly often..Smile great playing, great engineering, and Doug was one of a kind.


TD always delivers.

RC
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Mark McCornack


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 22 Dec 2020 10:27 pm    
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Hi Slim,
I get what your saying there. I think that part of my problem comes from lack of experience. What I find is after working on a mix fior a while, I suffer from "ear fatigue", which is really "brain fatigue" in disguise. Sometimes, backing away even briefly, and listening to a reference can freshen things up and reel me back in. This is not to say I am necessarily trying to emulate a given reference, but I notice that sometimes things can get away from me if I don't step back from time to time.
Anyway, I think with time and practice, things will improve. I'm trying to listen with an ear towards not only the musical content, but separately to the strictly technical aspects. I've got a lot to learn. The recordings that you do with Penny sound really great and possess that quality of having lots going on but everything is clear and well separated where it should be (plus LOTS of quality musical content!).
Our project with Bill is coming along and I think he has just 2 or 3 more songs for me, and at least one more for you. I have these stems to play with and learn from, but I don't know if I'll be up for the actual mixing/mastering. We'll see what happens.
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Slim Heilpern


From:
Aptos California, USA
Post  Posted 23 Dec 2020 6:49 am    
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You're right on about ear fatigue. If you're in no rush: After you think you have a mix you like, don't listen to it for a few days, and then listen to it on a few different playback systems.

Also, automation can be your friend, but it can also lead to perpetual tweaking. A fresh perspective can help with that too.

Looking forward to hearing what you come up with!

- Slim
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Chromatic Harmonica, Guitar, and Pedal Steel (Williams U12 Series 700, Emmons lap)
http://slimandpenny.com
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Bill Terry


From:
Bastrop, TX
Post  Posted 23 Dec 2020 7:08 am    
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Slim wrote:
..it can also lead to perpetual tweaking


So true. If you ask me, no mix is ever 'done', you just quit working on it at some point. Smile
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Dennis Conklin

 

From:
Ohio, USA
Post  Posted 23 Dec 2020 9:27 am    
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Using reference tracks is pretty standard throughout all audio engineering. It's not about "copying the sound of the recording". You probably don't have a perfect monitoring situation, very few people do. Without an acoustically treated room and quality studio monitors, many of us end up mixing on headphones. This is far from optimum. It's important to be extremely familiar with the specific characteristics of the headphones you are using and also to test your mix in other environments, like on your speakers, on a car stereo, etc. By using a reference track you may find that the bass/midrange/etc is low/high/inaudible volume level on your particular monitoring setup. This gives you a better chance of getting a good mix. For example, if your well-mixed reference track exhibits excessive bass on your monitoring setup, you know that your track should exhibit the same excessive bass in order to play well across many different platforms.

I should also add that for the subtle aspects of mixing, most people prefer a high-quality, lossless version of the reference track, not a YouTube version. I buy flac files of my reference tracks.

Your mileage may vary!
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Mark McCornack


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 23 Dec 2020 10:08 am    
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You're spot on about potential deficiencies in a monitoring system. Even if I had some really good speakers, the room treatment in my "studio" (i.e. spot in the corner of a room) just doesn't cut it. I came to this realization before investing is good monitor speakers and instead spent a fraction of the cost on a good set of headphones.
I just bought a pair of Beyerdynamic DT880 Hi-Z phones that have a pretty flat wideband response. What a difference from the previous headphones I was using! They're comfortable to wear and, as you pointed out, if I'm doing an A/B comparison with an external reference track, any intrinsic coloration that is present in the phones will be common mode. I think getting the right reference tracks for the right match to the particular projects will be very important though to be useful.
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John Macy

 

From:
Denver, CO/Rockport, TX
Post  Posted 2 Jan 2021 5:35 pm    
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One thing that mastering engineers hate is when people rely too much one reference tracks, which most likely have been professionally mastered, and end up trying to match the dynamics of an already mastered track. This tends to rob the track of dynamics that the mastering engineer can control and use better gear most likely. It leaves them little do do at that point.
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John Macy
Denver, CO/Rockport, TX
Engineer/Producer/Steel Guitar
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