EM Editor's Note: On the Square

Read Mike Levine August 2009 EM Editors Note, Where He Writes About Umphrey McGee Music Production for 2009 Album
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Photo: Marla Cohen

There's no shortage of new stuff to tell you about this month, both at EM and emusician.com. First, I want to let you know about a special online section, “Square One Tutorials,” that we recently debuted. If you're a regular EM reader, you'll know that our “Square One” column has been the repository of numerous articles explaining the basics of a huge range of topics related to recording, audio, synthesis and sound design, computing and more. Pretty much every topic area we cover in the magazine has been broken down in a “Square One” column at one time or another.

Over the years, we've built up a large collection of these stories, and we've now put them all into a single, easy-to-use section at emusician.com. If you're looking for solid info on tech basics, go to the “Square One” tab of the Tutorials section on the emusician home page, and you'll find what you're looking for.

Also new online this month is the premiere of a video blog from New York producer/composer Aaron “Ming” Albano. Ming has worked with Diddy, the Cheetah Girls and many others, and has written music for TV shows like CSI: Miami and Weeds. One of his main focuses these days is producing emerging rock, hip-hop and pop artists, and from those experiences will come the material he'll be presenting in the videos. Titled “In the Studio With Ming,” this series will give you a “fly on the wall” perspective of what goes on in his studio, including interviews with the artists and a look at his production techniques. Keep your eye on emusician.com for this exciting new feature.

In this issue of EM, we are also debuting the “Composer's Resource Report” supplement, which spotlights composers of film, TV and game music, and is presented with our sister site Reel-Exchange.com. A lot of EM readers are composers, and we'd love to be able to spotlight you in future editions of the report. Send an e-mail to support@reel-exchange.com to receive more information on how to qualify. Make sure to use the promo code REX005 so that they know you're an EM reader. (There's no charge to sign up.) In addition to composers, Reel-Exchange.com members include directors, film editors and other professionals who use music for their projects, so getting your name and profile into that database could be beneficial to you.

This month's cover story on Umphrey's McGee was a real blast to write. I got a chance to hang out with a number of the guys in the band, as well as their engineer/producer, and talk at length about their new prog-rock CD, Mantis, which is by far their most ambitious recording to date. When writing the story, the “angle” that struck me as the most interesting was that a band best known for its incredible abilities for live jamming was able to turn on a dime and record an album that was precisely arranged with virtually no improvisation (save for some fixed-length solos).

I was also impressed by the incredible detail that went into the production of Mantis. For example, the band recorded multiple versions of each song to a click in a variety of different-sounding rooms at two Chicago studios (Steve Albini's Electrical Audio and Manny Sanchez's I.V. Lab Studios) to provide a range of drum sound choices during mixdown. In some cases, they even edited sections from various takes together so that the drum sound changed in different parts of the song. To supplement the article, I've posted a two-part video interview with the bandmembers at emusician.com/videos.

I'm very pleased to be able to welcome Gino Robair back into the EM fold with his article this month called “Make Mine Modular,” in which he explores using modular synths as processors for your recorded tracks. Gino is a modular synth aficionado, and he has lots of cool tips and advice to offer in this story.