The ASSR blog devoted to news, related insights, and reviews about music apps + recording tools

The Power Of A Pint At The Ship
Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Power Of A Pint At The Ship

There was no such thing as ‘networking.’ Back when I was 19 and ‘unsigned’ to label or publisher, the band simply sat around scouring Melody Maker or NME for who was who and what was what; listening to the radio, playing records, plotting our next move towards being ‘discovered’.

There was a certain amount of bliss in that ignorance. We weren’t stressed out trying to get an introduction to every executive on the planet or having to spend a fortune on Google Ad words because the internet didn’t exist and there was precious little chance of being able to meet any executive, by any means, much less a flotilla of them.

But we definitely did ‘plot.’

We knew, for instance, that a certain record company liked to drink in a certain pub on Wardour Street in the heart of London’s Soho; The Ship. So, in what now seems more nitworking than networking, the band decided to pile into the pub one night in order to try and engage various members of the label in conversation.

We discovered that most evenings the crew went from The Ship to the Marquee club a few doors down to catch some live music, albeit through a beer-smeared window between the room and the bar, and finally onto ‘the speak’, or The Speakeasy as this dimly lit after-hours den of iniquity was officially named.

That was good information. Or data as we call it now.

Regardless of how good the information or data was, a gig at The Marquee could only be got by one of two means: fame or cash and we had neither. However, we did have a friend with money. And subsequently he (Gary) kindly put up the cash to get us onto the calendar.

As we launched into our set our manager managed to pry, for at least a song or two, the reluctant label boss and his cronies out of the bar and onto the floor. They were intrigued, they called a meeting, they paid for a demo to be recorded, and we totally ignored their instructions about what to record. But, they loved what they heard and duly signed the band. A career was launched.

Could it happen again today? There’s a lot of missing parts in today’s equivalent, for sure. But today there’s also a ton of new and rather more seemingly scientific arrivals: strategies, seminars, platforms, apps, all knitted together in one giant networking sweater to protect you and then project you into starasphere.

Only they probably won’t.

With only 24 hours in everyone’s day you have the choice of seeming to do something, or actually doing it. Like the choice of calling your friends when you’re on the beach to say what a great time you’re having… as opposed to actually having a great time on the beach, i.e. without your phone or friends who didn’t want to haul their asses off the couch and join you..

All emerging artists face the problem of exposure, or rather the lack of it. The challenge is not just how to stand out but who to stand out to? You might think a target is easier to hit if it’s bigger but sometimes the opposite is true. If you narrow down your target of people you want to reach to, say, three, then you can devote a lot more energy (and guile maybe?) to reaching them. Like us boys down the pub back in the seventies.

Entering a contest is a time-honored rite of passage. Even the much-ridiculed Eurovision Song Contest has thrown up the likes of Abba, Celine Dion, Secret Garden and Lordi and others over the years. OK, so contests like Melody Maker’s Rock and Pop contest did throw up (in possibly the other sense too) bands like Splodgenessabounds, Bite The Pillow, and Robert And The Remoulds, none of whom took much of anywhere by storm aside from Splodgenessabounds of course—who can forget the punk anthem "Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps Please"? On the other hand contests like American/British/Lithuanian Idol have been relatively extremely successful in kindling new music careers. And by no means just for the winners. Which is my next point.

Aside from some obvious benefits to winning, entering a contest is a great way to just focus on who you are, what you want to do, sound like, be comfortable being categorized as. It’s a goal, a target, moreover one of the ones that falls into the second definition: relatively easy to if not score a bullseye on, to at least hit some useful vectors or quadrants.

Above all, entering a contest is a statement of faith: Here I am. This is me, or us. In today’s increasingly isolated recording world where entire musical lives can go unheard by anyone outside your immediate family, entering a contest gets you out of the house, metaphorically and hopefully literally.

Entering a contest takes a different type of effort, which is precisely the point, and it’s effort with a nicely sharpened focus. Bit like that pint at The Ship.

By Julian Colbeck

Top 10 Things You Should Do Before Recording
Friday, August 14, 2015

1. Decide who’s in charge. Me, you, all of us by committee decision? It doesn’t really matter so long as everyone knows who’s calling the shots.

2. WRITE THE SONGS. Unless you’re a jam band and songs are not really the point, write—and finish—the songs before you start recording them. Just because technology lets you write on the fly doesn’t necessarily make this the best way to go.

3. Beg, borrow (maybe not steal) as much gear as you can. You can never have too many mics, amps, pedals, so call around to friends in the neighborhood and see if you can snag some loaners for a few days. Look after the gear you borrow.

4. Consider soundproofing and room acoustics. If you’re recording in your bedroom or garage you’re realistically not going to be able to get the place soundproofed. But you can block up holes (think of soundproofing like waterproofing. If there’s a hole, sound [or water!] can and will leak in and out). If you’re recording in a symmetrical room sound waves are going to bounce around and give you a false picture of what your recording sounds like. Read up on this a bit and maybe pick up or construct some bass traps. In this instance, a little knowledge is not dangerous at all. A little goes a long way.

5. Think about how you’re going to record vocals. Vocals are the song’s shop window. It’s the first thing people latch onto. First, make sure if it’s a ‘singer’ that they can sing well in the key you’re playing at. Don’t just rely on Auto-Tune! Also make sure the singer is rested and does not eats gobs of dairy the day before or of the recording. Finally, figure out where you’re going to recording him/her. Closets can make great vocal booths. Seriously.

6. Decide exactly how you want to record. Everyone in the room at the same time or part-by-part? If you’re recording ‘together’ you then have the choice of ‘just using a couple of room mics.’ Maybe you want everyone miced separately? If you want separate mics and you’re using a DAW you’ll need an interface that can handle as many inputs as you have. And if you want to be able to monitor everything separately, you’ll need to think about the number of A-D and/or D-A converters. With all this to think about you might want to go back to tape! It’s not a bad idea, either. All things to consider…

7. Check your equipment is in good working order. Fix crackly pots and channel faders (use an air duster, then a lubricant). Update your computer and recording software (but not 5 minutes before you start as updates can also cause at least temporary problems too). Make sure you have spare guitar / bass strings. Ideally, put on a new set of strings on any stringed instrument you plan on using.

8. Download everything you think you might need. Loops, instrument and effects plug-ins, patches, the new version of Melodyne you’re been promising yourself… Don’t spend precious recording time downloading stuff.

9. Look out all your widgets, gadgets, doodads and adaptors: Mic clips, a mic stand, a music stand, a string winder, your wallwarts, footpedals, cables… It’s The Law that the one cable you need—that stereo eighth inch mini jack to dual RCAs or whatever—will not be where you thought you last saw it when you need it in the heat of battle. Locate all of this stuff.

10. Print out the words/lyrics. 1. It’ll force you into completing them. 2. It makes it so much easier to identify sections you need to repeat, or makes changes to etc. 3. It’ll help everyone ‘keep in touch’ with the meaning or purpose of the track.

Bonus Track…

11. Decide on the credits. Music history is littered with musicians who felt they wrote or contributed to songs they ultimately were not credited for (Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman claims he wrote the guitar riff on Jumpin’ Jack Flash and was not credited for it, etc.) and basically once you leave the recording session ‘un-credited’ that’s how it’s going to remain. Have that conversation now or, as many sensible bands do, simply pre-agree that if you were in the room/band when a song was being written, you are a co-writer. Either strategy can save a lifetime of heartache or litany of legal fees afterwards.

What's Next Musicians' Conference Hits LA!
Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Whats Next Logo

ASSR is a proud sponsor of the Line 6 event series What's Next Musicians' Conference . The next stop is in Los Angeles at Studio Instrument Rentals (6465 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA, 90028) on Saturday, August 10, 2013. For more info and RSVP details, check out this Line 6 article.

Attention, Social Shoppers!
Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Announcing the official Appophone profile on AppShopper Social (Link opens in App Store).
Profile name: Appophone

By following our profile, you will stay up to date on our favorite iOS music production apps. We have some great apps on our list that will get you started making music on your iPad or iPhone.

In case you haven't used Appshopper before, the website and app allow you to discover the latest popular apps on the App Store, add apps to your own wish list, and keep track of apps you already own.

Appophone on Appshopper

Master Checklist for Mixing a Song
Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Master checklist for mixing a song

via The Loop

Jim Dalrymple has been on a roll with his links to music production resources. This checklist makes for a valuable guide that you can quickly refer to during your mixing phases.

ASSR Album Of The Week - March 25, 2013
Monday, March 25, 2013
Mirrored by Battles

As you may have noticed, sometimes our Appophone blog does not post the ASSR Album of the Week on Monday. We will try our best to post our mini-reviews on Mondays, but in the meantime we can assure you that the actual Spotify playlist gets updated every Monday. What does this mean? As long as you are subscribed to the ASSR Album of the Week playlist on Spotify, you can stay ahead of the curve and listen before our blog posts are up!

This week's pick is for the brave of ear; it's the "cro-magnum opus" by the experimental band Battles known as Mirrored. Released on May 14, 2007, on Warp Records, this album represents a dynamic shift in the way mathematical patterns and rhythms coalesce with noise and glitch-influenced melodies. This band has changed in recent times, losing vocalist Tyondai Braxton (son of avant-garde composer Anthony Braxton) and collaborating with other stars like weirdo-in-his-own-right Gary Numan on My Machines (check out the incredible music video below).

Battles "My Machines" from DANIELS on Vimeo.

The best way to enjoy this album is with an open-mind. I'm not just saying that because the songs are barely accessible or outside the realm of popular appreciation, but because you will simply gain a lot more creative insight as your brain unpacks the wild resonances and polyrhythms. Think of this album as a modern exercise of Mike Patton's courageous beat-treat manifestos.

Turn on and tune in now: ASSR Album Of The Week on Spotify

ASSR Album Of The Week - March 18, 2013
Monday, March 18, 2013
Ars Longa Vita Brevis by The Nice

Prepare to have a lot of fun with this week's selection from the ASSR blog. The latest ASSR Album of the Week is Ars Longa Vita Brevis by The Nice. I hadn't heard of this album before today, basing my selection on a process inherited from years of being a British mod/rock DJ on KZSC-FM. What I would do on my radio show is go through the stacks of old records from the late 1960s British rock scene and look for either familiar band names or cool-looking album sleeves. That is how I found the astounding Nuggets and Pebbles series of rare rock compilations, and would cue up a fresh-to-my-ears track on the air. Similarly, I searched for some older English rock albums on Spotify and came across Ars Longa Vita Brevis and it's X-ray skeleton (almost kaleidoscope-gothic) album art.

This is the second album from the English band that comprised of Keith Emerson, Lee Jackson, Brian Davison, and up until half-way through the completion of , David O'List. These players are all important in their own right, but this release is contextually amazing. Produced in 1968 with the help of Robert Stewart and Don Brewer, this album reaffirms The Nice as pioneers who blended psychedelic rock with orchestral movements and grandiose undertones. Go for it! Listen to the rare gem of an album on our Spotify playlist and subscribe to us for future picks!

- Ben Cruz

Turn on and tune in now: ASSR Album Of The Week on Spotify

ASSR Album Of The Week - March 11, 2013
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Sea Change by Beck

This week's selection is Beck's Sea Change, an album reserved for sincere moments of tenderness and longing. A collaboration with producer Nigel Godrich, Beck recorded the album at Ocean Way Studios following an emotional breakup with longtime girlfriend. As in most pro sessions, the setting and tone of a studio location can make a palpable difference in the sound (you might recall Alan Parsons at Ocean Way Studios during some of the scenes in ASSR).

Whether you think the added reverb effects transport you into a heartfelt dream within a solacing landscape or perhaps illustrates the introspective confines of Beck's half-barren mind and body, the production value of Sea Change depends on the subtle qualities of sound wave reflections. According to this post on Gearslutz, much of the ambience on the recordings were heard through Ocean Way Studio's reverb chambers, reverb plates, and digital reverb from a machine that Allen Sides gave Nigel Godrich as a gift.

Want to learn more about the properties of acoustic reverb? Here is an excerpt from the Reverb section of ASSR, featuring an overview of natural reverb in acoustic instruments and spaces. The physical qualities of a room will almost undoubtedly affect the nature of a recording, so it is important to be mindful of both the playing and the space when using microphones.

- Ben Cruz

Turn on and tune in now: ASSR Album Of The Week on Spotify

Behind The Productions of G R I M E S
Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Grimes setup on Jimmy Fallon

Screenshot from "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon"

Galactic pop princess and space-synth musician Grimes recently shared an interesting how-to article on Tumblr.

Mildly valuable for its purchasing suggestions, her Tumblr post more interestingly provides a rare perspective into the successful contemporary indie artist's workflow. It seems rare that an artist openly reveals his or her secrets of production. Here you get the chance to read about Grimes' notes on BPM, thoughts on microphones, and basic program and buffer settings for Ableton Live.

If you are looking for some of the gear mentioned in Grimes' tutorial, look through our list of available products from
Grimes 4ever

ASSR Album Of The Week - March 4, 2013
Monday, March 4, 2013
Fever Ray by Fever Ray (2009)

The warmness and vitality of spring brings us a new cycle of vegetation, but the season also means 2013 is moving at full-speed towards many anticipated musical releases (I personally can't wait for new sounds from Marnie Stern, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Earl Sweatshirt). Among the new crop of musical ardor is electronic pop duo The Knife's upcoming album, Shaking the Habitual, set for release in early April.

Late last year, the following video teaser was released on YouTube:

As you may know, Karin Dreijer Andersson of The Knife performs solo as Fever Ray. The icy-chill hauntings of her musical project were finely recorded for 2009's self-titled album, Fever Ray.

This album hits and resonates on a visceral level of listening. The opening track,If I Had A Heart, is ominous in tone that contrasts with any Tin Man's point of view. The song also conceptually frames the album as a claustrophobic horror story.

A definite highlight of the album, Keep The Streets Empty For Me creates a huge sense of space through its sonic production of reverberant synth hits and electrifying synthesizer shrills. Throughout the record, you truly gain a sense of physical emptiness within a large, vacuous space. The aural recreation of the Scandinavian peninsula's terrain and environment washes over the listener in such a way that resembles a trance. As a testament to this highly-original piece of work's personal connection, almost all of the vocals, engineering, mixing, and producing was done by Fever Ray herself.

- Ben Cruz

Turn on and tune in now: ASSR Album Of The Week on Spotify


The ASSR blog devoted to news, related insights, and reviews about music apps + recording tools