My Two Mistresses...


Since the age of 7 I've had an affair with the Trumpet. At 15 I entered my first recording studio and fell in love with the art of recording and all it's machinations.

Finding a balance has always proven problematic for me, especially over the last two decades where folks have been more than happy to pay me six times what they'd pay for a Jazz gig on the Horn and have me record, mix or master their performances. This is still essentially the same, with musicians being paid around the same performance fees that we were thirty years ago; sort of depressing isn't it?

But as life see-saws and weighing up the need to prioritise finances over artistic indulgence alters the scales it appears the balance is beginning to change. I am managing to find small pockets of time between parenting and engineering to devote to practice.

Today I bought a new stand for the Horn so 'she' can sit alongside me whenever I'm engineering. Within arms reach like the rest of my analogue hardware, so is now the first love of my life; and the affair continues...

Facts Drive Education

Science is not a belief or difference in world view to religion. Science does not require faith in order to exist.

Please take the time to arm yourself with knowledge, for the best way to contribute to enacting upon Climate Change is to talk about it.

Lizzie O'Donnell

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I met Lizzie back in the early days of Woodstock Studios in the 1990s and have had the pleasure to record her fantastic voice on a few occasions but likely the best of these was the album for the Lumière Project. Incredible pitch and control with a beautiful warmth and tone Lizzie’s voice is easily one of the best I’ve recorded, but she was always so hard on herself. There really wasn’t any need as her recordings lay testament to the immense beauty she possessed.

Lizzie passed away today after battling cancer and even in our messages of a couple of weeks ago she was determined to win this battle. So sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye, but part of me thinks that’s the way you wanted it my dear friend. I will always be grateful for being able to spend precious times both in the studio and in life with you Lizzie O’Donnell. Thank you X


HARRISON Consoles enters the Cross-Platform Plug-in market

HARRISON Consoles out of Nashville Tennessee have been designing, developing and manufacturing ultra high end consoles for decades, with the company founder Dave Harrison introducing the "in-line" configuration of a channel fader and a tape return (baby fader) on the same channel strip. His now famous 32C console and the same-named EQ are synonymous with musicality and technical perfection. The company has been developing it's own DAW known as MixBus and I've lauded their products over the past few years both here on ToKwerX and also under my role with RMIT University's Sound Production program.

Harrison have ported one of their digital designs long available in their flagship consoles across to other formats to allow engineers access to these within the AAX, AU and VST systems and it appears this will not be the last; the AVA Mastering EQ.

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Unique in it's ability to create a flat curve between adjacent frequency bands this final stage EQ is designed to add the final touches to a mix or master. So far I've run this across some projects recently completed as a comparison and it's subtle ability to open up air in the top end, add presence to upper mid range and depth to subs in the 60-80Hz realm has proven wonderful. Harrison are offering a special price on this EQ so check out their site whilst this remains available. Harrison Consoles.

Jeff Lang: Superlative Gentleman

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I was absolutely humbled this evening, both as a musician and engineer. Very fortunate to do FOH mix for Jeff Lang @ the Skylark Lounge. Awesome. Sincerely - absolutely awesome. I have not heard lap steel and guitars played this well since jamming with Lucky Oceans (pedal steel) and Jeff Lang is so in the same league. If you've not had the pleasure to hear Jeff perform please add it to your bucket list 'cos this guitarist is one Superlative Gentleman indeed. Thank you Mr Lang.

ToKwerX eBook Series: Recording & Editing Techniques

If you're into audio engineering or are just fresh to this field of art and technical expression it's likely you've been given advice from those who may not actually have been doing this for long; I'll offer you the benefit of my forty years in studios through my eBook series. There are currently two releases published in ePub format for use on a myriad of devices: 1 investigates Recording Techniques whilst 2 delves into the workflows I've developed for Editing, predominantly in ProTools. Head over to the ToKshop to grab yourself a copy or bundle.

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PS. the 3rd eBook is currently underway - Stay Tuned: Mixing Techniques

It's Back!!!

Many of my peers and colleagues don't get it; why do I love our footy so much? Perhaps it was growing up in the city this unique sport still calls it's "Mecca?" Maybe it is the uniqueness of this game and the colloquial pride and passion it invokes? Then again, I have always drawn a parallel between surviving on original music for most of my life and the "struggle of the underdog." Many would say that goes hand in hand with being a Melbourne Demons supporter since the age of 5 after seeing a life-size poster of "Hassa Mann" on my neighbour's bedroom cupboard door.

Many theories. None of which I have too much time for...'cos Footy Is Back and I love it..

Not quite today "Dees" but a stronger display against the Cats than we've seen in many a year. Bring it on...

Kids are again allowed on the MCG after the game for kick to kick. Fantastic.

Kids are again allowed on the MCG after the game for kick to kick. Fantastic.

3 point victory to Geelong.

3 point victory to Geelong.

the Hills Are Alive...

Oh my how the local music scene has changed since I lived here almost 13 years ago - and it's alive. So many quality artists performing their own material. It's a wonderful and vibrant music community here in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne. One of the serendipitous events since relocating here is the number of live shows I am now mixing FOH. All of these are at "the Skylark Room" in Upwey, which is an oasis of Roots and Groove music. It's a refreshing change attempting to bring studio and mastering values to a live mix and certainly a challenge at times, but I'm really enjoying it. So if you're up in the ranges out east and feel like a taste of fresh homegrown sonic fare - come join us; for the Hills Are Alive...

ToKwerX iBook 2: Editing Techniques

It's been an extremely productive Summer with lot's of recording, performances, back to lectures and teaching and also managing to write the 2nd iBook (ePub format). This second publication focuses upon the Editing Techniques within the DAW environment and features a whole range of workflows for an entire production process. The intention is to provide engineers, especially junior engineers with a framework upon which to develop or adapt their own workflows in the many aspects of editing prior to the blurry end leading into the mix stage.

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It became apparent after releasing the 1st iBook (Recording Techniques) that whilst there are quite a few publications of that type the Editing aspects for the engineer have not been the focus for many teaching or learning resources. It is my sincere hope that this 2nd ePub document will become a valuable addition to reading the user manual for ProTools especially, although many of the workflows can be easily adapted across alternative DAW packages. Head over to the ToKshop to grab yourself a copy.

Why We Teach...

Today marks the beginning of another year in teaching Audio Engineering and it's related sub-fields. This is the part I love; disseminating as much of my knowledge that I can whilst embracing everything I am still yet to learn. So teaching is always a two-way street; I learn from my students who learn from me.

I began teaching in this field part-time in 2003, went full-time in 2006 and was finally offered tenure in 2007, which meant I wasn't effectively "unemployed" from New Year's Eve 'til New Year's Day. So over a decade now and the actual teaching element is still as exciting for me as ever. I am very grateful to have such a fulfilling job that serves to feed my children and I but above all that I am blessed that my students actually enjoy my teaching.

Lecture/Class #1 for 2018 to my new cohort of 1st years and one particular student states at the end of the two hours "thank you - you're a fantastic teacher - the best I've ever had."

Phükk! Thank you. Let the journey for me continue whilst for others the journey has only just begun...

1 Singer: 3 Mic's: Rebellious Bird

When tracking vocals for both a lead and accompanying backing parts it is great to utilise different mic's so the resulting lead and BV's have a contrasting timbre. This assists in providing a separation between the two final sounds within the mix. Additionally different vocal approaches between songs benefit from this to exploit different characteristics in a lead vocal - especially when working with a very accomplished singer - such as Erin Downie.

Thus far we've opted for my OPR Ultra-Mod Ribbon and P12 valve condenser by Peluso. Sitting in waiting is the CM7 FET condenser by Wunder but as yet has not got a guernsey. I've set up three input channels with HPF, EQ and soft-knee compression: OPR Ribbon required several dB cut around 350Hz and a subtle boost at 12kHz; the P12 is actually coming in flat - this mic' has been modified 4 times from stock and is quite sublime. The Ribbon is providing a wonderful thickness in the mids for a female lead vocal whilst the P12 has a very similar body but as one would expect from a condenser has more subtle high end making it wonderful for the more breathy takes. These then matrix out into a single master record buss, which allows Erin to simply move between mic's and audition each characteristic.

,,, and a reminder of the January 19th show to open the Skylark Room for 2018. Link for Bookings here:

Rebellious Bird: Vocal Sessions

This week I am tracking vocals with Erin Downie for the Rebellious Bird debut EP. Thought it would be great for folks to hear the raw vocal tracking, so VERY unmixed, but it gives an interesting insight into how much work goes into creating a piece such as "UnRavel."

Rebellious Bird play the Skylark Room on January 19th to re-open the venue for 2018. Click on the above photo for a link to the event. Oh... and I'll be playing trumpet too!


It amazes me just how trusting creatures can be when we don't threaten or scare them. I only provide the birds from the neighbouring forest with water - no food. They can source theirs naturally. But since ensuring the water tub is freshly topped up every day or so the birds are happy to come... and hang. This evening I had a particularly settled visitor who, it would appear, likes a bit of the 1976 OLD's Recording tone?

iPhone in my left hand, trumpet in my right - nearly dropped both at one point - eek!

STV: Stereo Volvo Album 2018

Spent today and will do so tomorrow with Pete Warren-Smith and Scott Bennett laying down grooves on the upcoming 2nd album for Stereo Volvo. So a bit of A-P for those who might be interested:

From this...through this...into this...

By these...

A couple of points for the engineers out there: my favourite secondary Kick (and cool Snare) mic' configuration "a la derriere" using my new Open Plan Ultra-Mod Rocket Ribbon; and the Overheads may look strange but this variation on ORTF ensures the Kick and Snare fall in the centre of the stereo image. Only 7 mic's on the Kit and it was massive; all condensers bar the Ribbon at "the rear": Wunder CM7 FET on the Kick, AKG 214 on the Snare, Josephson E22's on Rack and Floor, with a pair of AKG C451's on Overheads.

Strings @ ToKwerX...

Well, virtually. In the form of the EastWest Hollywood Strings library I am using for the track "UnRavel" by Erin Downie & Rebellious Bird. As recommended I've recorded the sections of the string ensemble separately, through some slightly overdriven API Vision strip (UAD) and some usual Valve analogue harmonic distortion (a la ToKwerX) then brought them back into the session as four stereo tracks. Oh Phükk! These are incredible. Don't get me wrong, I adore real strings, but the price tag of recording the 20+ players to produce the parts I've now written... that's way out of my budget. So for the first production using my new Christmas String Ensemble (thanx Santa) I am absolutely elated. Sincere apologies to my friends at the MSO.

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