Friday, November 19, 2010

When a studio's clients want to leave—and take you with them

As a freelance recording engineer, what do you do when artists approach you directly and ask you to produce their recordings in your own right, after you've made their acquantance in someone else's studio and on someone else's dime?

This is a situation I've found myself in a few times over the years. On two occasions, clients told me that the studio we met in didn't sound good and wanted to go elsewhere—with me—to record in the future. In another case, a performer said that the producer was too hyper, "not laid back enough," and could we record somewhere else where the atmosphere was more relaxed. Similarly, in another instance, an artist complained of being stressed out in the presence of the studio owner, and consequently couldn't turn in a first-rate performance.

When this started happening, I thought it best to speak frankly with the producer or studio owner, one of whom told me that none of his other freelancers would ever dream of "poaching" his clients, whose business he had worked diligently to acquire over months and years.

I pointed out that I wasn't in the habit of poaching clients—the industry is far too small and such behaviour is ruinous to one's reputation. I suggested that those who were dissatisfied were eventually going to go elsewhere anyway, and rather than lose their business entirely, why not work out a finder's fee arrangement for him—call it a commission or kick-back if you will—so that his role in securing the business was recognized tangibly.

He rejected this suggestion out of hand, insisting they were HIS clients, and that I should endeavour to convince them to stay despite their expressed concerns.

Well, no one is automatically entitled to a client's business for life, and as the saying goes, whatever it took to get you here isn't enough to keep you here—you're only as good as your last gig. Clients are free to go where they will.

Knowing that some clients may approach competent staff members directly in an attempt to secure their services at more favourable rates, some employers insist that their employees sign a non-compete agreement.

But this doesn't wash with many freelancers, something studio owners should bear in mind when building a business based on out-sourcing the work. It's a two-edged sword—freelancers are not employees, and do not enjoy the same benefits and security that employees do, and turnabout is fair play.

Some savvy studio owners offer freelance engineers a piece of the action—participation in the business akin to stock options—in order to make it more attractive for freelancers to discourage the studio's clients from going elsewhere. I have suggested this on several occasions, with mixed results.

In the end, it's difficult, if not impossible, to maintain a good working relationship with a studio when its clients become dissatisfied and want you to take them elsewhere to record. But for a studio owner, recognizing that you're in a business relationship with freelance engineers, and not a social one, is a necessary first step in arriving at a business solution to what might otherwise become a thorny personal problem.

For a studio owner, it should serve as a wake-up call that all is not as it should be when clients express their dissatisfaction to a sympathetic ear behind the board. The solution may be as simple as staying away from the session, however tempting it may be for a studio owner to participate in the proceedings. From a "strictly-business" perspective, this is the most straightforward solution.

In the case of a home or project studio, this is not as easily accomplished, and sharing a business with a home may open up the studio operation to a level of personal micromanagement that may be detrimental to its success, exposing clients to everything from a simple request to remove their shoes, to disagreeable cooking odors emanating from the kitchen.

When home studio rates are well below prevailing commercial rates, such irritants may well be tolerable, but if home studio owners set their rates equivalent to—or higher than—commercial operations, they may need to adjust their expectations and behaviour accordingly.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How much headroom do you need when recording? Part 1

Some years back, I recorded a Stravinsky symphonic work to analog tape running at 15 ips half-track, dbx type 1. When I transferred the recording to digital for archiving, the big orchestral bass drum gave me problems. Had I been recording to digital on location, it would have been a mess: I would have needed to set 0 VU at -25 dBFS to keep the digital meter out of the red. That's how much energy the bass drum was putting out. 

Standards organizations specify how much headroom should be available above operating level (0 VU) in the digital domain. In my experience, the European EBU standard of 0 VU = -18 dBFS does not afford nearly enough headroom, and neither does the North American SMPTE standard of -20 dBFS. Granted, these were "reasonable" compromises in the days of 16-bit technology, when 93dB dynamic range was about all you could expect to get in the real world (as opposed to the theoretical 96 dB, calculated at 6 dB per bit).

Analog headroom of 24 dB—which many manufacturers of professional grade equipment achieve with maximum output levels of +28 dBu (ref 0 VU = +4 dBu)—should be considered the minimum standard during production. Even then, the Stravinsky would have been into overload by about 1 dB, so you might occasionally require even more headroom. 

In our current 24-bit world, I would say that it's not unreasonable to demand 28 dB headroom when recording wide dynamic range program material, such as symphonic works. It still gives you a working signal-to-noise ratio of better than 100 dB, and 28 dB of headroom includes a small comfort margin so you can enjoy the program without stressing over the levels during recording, knowing that you will most likely never go into the red.

Incidentally, I see a lot of "analog channels" being marketed as quality front end processing for recording into ProTools and other DAWs. Many of these boxes include a compressor after the mic preamp, probably because few recordists stop to consider how much analog headroom is really needed in a given situation. Instead of backing the level off to allow for enough headroom without compression, they tend to run the ProTools meters high up into the yellow, recording with compression on individual tracks at 24-bit resolution. It's as if a little bit of green flickering at the low end of the meter must be avoided at all costs. This is foolishness.

24-bit technology allows you to record at a moderate level with 28 dB of headroom and still accumulate no perceptible noise in the recording. Save the compression for mixing and mastering, when it becomes a creative tool rather than a protective device. And then, whatever else you do, don't normalize! Oversampling digital-to-analog converters, which are pretty much the norm these days, routinely create signal peaks greater than 0 dBFS between samples that measure 0 dBFS on disc. But that's another subject for another time.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Microphone cable wiring 101: connecting the ground lug—or not

Trying to repair a broken microphone cable the other day, I noticed that pin 1 of the XLR connector was connected to the ground lug with a small jumper wire, thereby bonding the cable shield to the connector shell. Here's what it looked like:

The cable was a cheapie from Active Surplus, the store on Queen St. West in Toronto with the stuffed gorilla by the door. From the quality of the components and the crummy soldering job, it's a good illustration of you-get-what-you-pay-for, so please consider this blog entry my penance for buying it. I was caught in a weak moment.

By way of contrast, here are quality connectors from Switchcraft (top) and Neutrik, with the ground lugs identified by arrows:

Should the ground lug be connected to pin 1, as in the top illustration, or not? I've read opinions pro and con over the years, so I decided to ask an acknowledged expert in the field, Neil Muncy.

Before I get to his answer, you should know that Neil, a Fellow and Life Member of the Audio Engineering Society, is the author of the ground-breaking 1994 AES paper, "Noise Susceptibility in Analog and Digital Signal Processing Systems," in which he explored the relationship between the physical construction of shielded twisted-pair cable and induced noise in a signal circuit due to cable shield current. This paper was published, along with others by authors including Philip Giddings of Toronto's Engineering Harmonics, in the June 1995 issue of the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, which has become the most widely accessed issue of the Journal in history.

When he wrote his paper, most commercially available audio gear had pin-1 problems. It was, indeed, difficult to find equipment without it—even the most highly revered consoles had serious pin-1 problems. Since then, a number of leading manufacturers have redesigned their products to correct their mistake, but unfortunately, many have not yet done so.

Neil Muncy is also a member of the task group that developed the standard AES48-2005, "AES Standard on Interconnections—Grounding and EMC practices—Shields of Connectors in Audio Equipment Containing Active Circuitry," the published standard that deals with the pin-1 problem.

Based on all this, I figured Neil should know how to wire up a microphone cable. In close to 30 years, he hasn't failed me yet. Here's his answer to the question, Under what circumstances do you solder the ground lug (aka pin 4) to pin 1?

"The short, long, and infinitely long answers are NEVER, NEVER, & NEVER. To do so would introduce ground loops which could totally compromise an otherwise working Isolated Ground (I.G.) installation, and raise Hell with any front-end equipment that is plagued with Pin-1 Problems. Terminal #4 was introduced by Switchcraft back in the late '50's/'60's to address an application in very high impedance medical interfaces. It has no use whatsoever as far as portable A/V cables are concerned. They are simply extension cords."

There you have it. But if the lug shouldn't be used in general audio applications, why is it still there? Wouldn't it be advantageous for manufacturers such as Switchcraft and Neutrik to produce a line of connectors without the ground lug for normal stage and studio applications that have nothing to do with medical interfaces? I'd like to hear your comments.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Plan ahead for split-track recording when making documentary videos

A wedding videographer came to me last week with an audio problem in a wedding video he was editing. Just before their first dance as husband and wife, the happy couple had taken to the dance floor with handheld mics to sing a torch ballad over a karaoke track. A huge crowd-pleaser, this would have been a "highlight" of the wedding video. Unfortunately, on tape the backing track was so loud that the lyrics were completely unintelligible—in fact, you couldn't hear the man's voice at all. Could I save the track? And his reputation?

In a nutshell, no, not this time. The voices were so faint in the two-track mono mix and the electric piano so loud  that no amount of EQ could bring them forward. The client even sent me the original wav file of the karoake track, hoping that if I mixed it out of phase (reversed polarity) with the botched recording, it would cancel out some of the music track, leaving the voices more intelligible.

For the cancellation trick to work, the music in the end recording would have to be almost identical to the original karoake file. It wasn't: the karaoke was in stereo not mono, and it ran slightly faster than in the final recording.

Moreover, there was tons of ambience in the duet recording, because the karaoke playback was picked up not only directly from the audio mixer at line level, but also from the loudspeakers in the hall by the singers' microphones. So the final recording is muddied and colored by the reproduced sound from the loudspeakers and all sorts of reflection from the walls and floor, which, of course, is not present in the original track. 

This also partially explains why the music was so much louder than the vocals: the music was being picked up twice, once as a direct feed, and secondly from the singers' microphones. 

What should the operator have done? Since the goal was apparently not to make a stereo recording—no attempt was made to preserve the original left-right stereo of the instrumental track in making a two-track mono recording—the operator should have fed both sides of the original instrumental track to track 1 of the camera, and the microphones to track 2.

This simple split-track technique would have allowed for the voices to be properly balanced with the music in post production. It's done all the time in recording dialog for films and TV on 2 tracks, especially when there is a mic on a boom or fishpole, and the actors are wearing lavs. Boom goes to track 1, lavs to track 2. 

When shouting and screaming are anticipated in a scene (perhaps not at a wedding), the same audio is printed on both tracks but at a reduced level—say, 10 dB lower than normal—on track 2. So if the scream is distorted on track 1, the sound editor can lay up the lower, undistorted scream from track 2, and match the levels during mixdown.

It's simple and it works. It just requires a little planning ahead, but when you only have one shot at it, split-track recording can save the day. And your reputation.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Why use a pro studio?

This question came up on CD Baby today. Why use a pro studio when you can record at home and save a load of money?

Well, for one thing, a good pro studio will have an affiliation with an arranger or an orchestrator who will prepare your string or horn charts for a very reasonable rate, and contacts with local symphony or theatre-pit players who will play at the AFM Limited Pressing Session Rate (fewer than 10,000 CDs, or 3,000 in Canada) which is $100 per 2-hr session, plus benefits. This makes it very affordable to add professional string or horn arrangements to a song, a difference that is easily heard by anyone considering your material. If you use the two hour session to score two or three songs—even split the time with another songwriter—you’re looking at just $600 per song, perhaps even less.

If you surround yourself with the best people you can afford and stay the hell out of their way, your song will exceed whatever you can conceive for it working by yourself. Even Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney were better with sidemen than they were playing and overdubbing everything themselves.

This is one of the benefits of working with a fully pro studio. They are on your side.

You have to decide if you want to be in the music business or the studio business. Equipment manufacturers have done a good job over the past 30 years convincing musicians that they have to buy lots of gear to record themselves, when the truth is that if you spent half that money on professional arrangers, players and studios, you'd be far ahead of your competition who are still paying off their gear, reading manuals (maybe), and renting out their "studios" for $18 per hour and undermining the value of a real studio operation. There's no such thing as a free lunch.

Write me at to continue this discussion.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Does using ProTools make you a pro?

There's quite a bit of controversy over a cracked version of ProTools HD and M-Powered for the Mac floating around the Internet (see for some of the discussion). This cracked version allows ProTools software to be used on a Mac without the ProTools hardware that it has been tied to for decades. (Some even refer to the hardware as a rather heavy copy-protection dongle.)

Russ Hughes over at the Air Users Blog wrote a couple of days ago: "The only downside for every one of us, is there's now a thousand kids out there with a cracked version of Pro Tools, heaven knows the shit they're going to make with it!"

I have run into people over the years who tell me they have ProTools on their computer (or Reason, Logic, Cubase or any one of a number of audio applications) and that they are now a producer, sound designer, engineer or something of the sort. As an instructor in post-production at the Toronto Film School, I used to hear this sort of thing all the time.

It should be patently obvious, however, that having software like ProTools on your computer doesn't automatically confer audio credentials any more than having Microsoft Word on your computer makes you a speech writer.

Credentials come from clients. They are the ones who recognize ability when they see it and are willing to pay for something that has value to them. Clients are what separate hobbyists and enthusiasts from professionals, and until you have at least one, you're not in business.

In a similar way, the fact that a dealer stocks a particular product doesn't allow him to say truthfully that he sells it—you actually have to make sales and collect money in order to say truthfully that you sell it. As Griff McRee used to tell us at Synclavier, "The sale isn't complete until I've spent the money."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Studio Fatigue

Fatigue can creep up on you in unexpected ways. I had been in the edit room for over 24 hours, cutting sound for a TV show and a feature, both on a tight deadline. The scene I was working on was a 3-second establishing shot, and included streetcars passing each other. I was trying to sync the Doppler pitch shift of the sound effect (streetcar passing at 40 km/h) with the moving image on the screen, but couldn't get it right—when it's right, a kind of lock happens in the mind and the action comes together almost magically as a single event, and not as separate visual and aural cues. No matter how I tried, the sound was always out of sync with the picture, so I decided a break was in order, and took a walk up to Queen and John to get a chocolate bar and a coffee.

As I was standing on the corner waiting for the light to change, a streetcar passed by. And it was out of sync. I was shocked. The sound and image did not coalesce as one to me. I realized that the problem in the edit room was me, that no matter how long I tried to fit the sound to picture, I wouldn't be able to get it right that night. I was just too fatigued from too many long days hunched over  a monitor. And I realized that if I did get it to look "right" that night, I'd probably have to redo it all in the morning anyway.

After a good night's sleep, I went in the next morning, put up the scene, and had it looking and sounding right in less than 5 minutes. Sometimes the most efficient way to get things done right is to stop trying, take a break, and come back at it later—especially when you've been at it longer than usual.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What is sound design, anyway?

I get asked this question all the time, so I guess it's confusing. In a nutshell, sound design is the art or craft (depending on your perspective) of recording, editing, processing, assembling, and mixing sounds together to create informative, convincing or emotionally suggestive listening experiences. While powerful software—such as ProTools—is available to facilitate many sound design processes on personal computers, keep in mind that using these tools doesn't instantly make someone a qualified sound designer, any more than having Microsoft Word on your computer makes you a professional speech writer.

The term “sound design” originated in live theatre to describe the creation of sounds and aural montages specifically for stage plays. In theatre, sound design is a unique department, like lighting design. In the film world, the term first became synonymous with sound editing in 1969, when the great Walter Murch was credited as sound designer on Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rain People. Coppola recalls that, because Murch “wasn’t in the union, the union forbade him getting the credit as sound editor—so Walter said, Well, since they won’t give me that, will they let me be called ‘sound designer’? We said, We’ll try it—you can be the sound designer . . . I always thought it was ironic that ‘Sound Designer’ became this Tiffany title, yet it was created for that reason. We did it to dodge the union constriction.”

David Collison’s fabulous new book, The Sound of Theatre, is a wonderful, illustrated introduction to the development of sound design for theatre from the ancient Greeks to the modern digital age. For more information:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

2 Million Watts Power Sound Systems at the Winter Olympic Opening & Closing Ceremonies

The aurora borealis dancing in the northern sky served as a guiding metaphor in the design of the elaborate Opening Ceremony of the XXI Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver on February 12, as light and projection were employed in place of scenery to dress the gargantuan stage in the 65,000-seat bowl of BC Place, where the ceremony was held indoors for the first time in the history of the Olympics.

Lighting director Bob Dickinson went straight from Vancouver after wrapping up the Closing Ceremonies to light the 82nd Academy Awards in Hollywood. Two days later, he was on the phone with me, downloading his thoughts and feelings about the experience. I then caught up with audio director Bruce Jackson—founder of Apogee Electronics—who used 2,000,000 watts of amplifier power in his sound system design, design director Doug Paraschuk, and other members of his team to get their take on producing the largest spectacle ever mounted on Canadian soil.

Featuring the largest air-supported stadium roof in North America, BC Place offered executive producer David Atkins and his designers an unprecedented opportunity to stretch the boundaries of spectacle using state-of-the-art lighting, projection, sound and special effects. The fabric roof presented almost insurmountable challenges in rigging, projection, and sound reinforcement, however, and was sensitive to changes in barometric pressure, temperature, and wind conditions that caused it to rise and fall continuously 1.3 m (4’) during the course of the ceremonies. Furthermore, it limited the total hang in the stadium to some 150 tons.

“We were in a somewhat inhospitable environment that generated a lot of technical issues, just in terms of gravity alone,” said Paraschuk. “Because it was an air-filled venue, we were limited in the amount of equipment we could physically hang from the ceiling. The engineering of the rigging, which was handled by Riggit Services in Vancouver, was a technical nightmare. We had to be very careful about where the rigging points were located, and how we articulated the entire rig in order to get to where we needed to be. We also had to deal with the issue that the ceiling breathed. This caused nightmares in focusing, because it was moving all the time, and so all of our flown elements, and their relationships to the projection and the lighting were encoded,” he said.

“The victory ceremonies every day between the Opening and Closing Ceremonies required an entire additional set of truss masking to be hung in order to create a kind of concert bowl in the venue. The intent was to have it look like a different space on television, and this impacted greatly on our ability to maintain focus and continuity for the Closing Ceremonies, let alone physically rehearse the Closing Ceremonies. Our target for the bowl was 25,000 seats for the victory ceremonies. The full seating in the venue is 55,000, and we expanded the lower bowl lower for opening and closing so the total capacity was about 65,000,” Paraschuk said.

The fabric roof let in so much daylight that programming and rehearsals for the Closing Ceremonies could be conducted only from midnight until dawn, following the conclusion of the daily victory ceremonies and pre-programming for the following night’s headline talent. “The lighting department worked 24 hours a day, with some individuals putting in 16 hour shifts, and that turned out to be more ambitious than we had initially anticipated,” Dickinson said.

Read the full story in the April issue of Lighting & Sound America.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Wrong Barber: A Cautionary Tale

This story relates to a hard lesson I learned recently when it came to choosing a videographer to shoot a local high school play. Based on his work, I thought I was choosing the best. Here's how I went wrong—and what you can do to avoid a similar pitfall.

When I was a kid, my dad used to take me to the barber shop every other Saturday morning. It was one of those special outings that I grew to enjoy. When I was 7 or 8, I got a crew cut and a special brush with a handle that slipped over all four fingers so that when you went to slick your hair back, the stiff bristles would make the very short hairs stand straight up. I was proud to look like my Uncle George, a grease monkey with a spiffy, permanent crew cut, whose clean face we saw only on Sundays.

At the barber shop, I would often gravitate to the guy who cut your hair with such concentration that he held his tongue between his teeth the whole time, but my father had a different idea. “Always go the barber with the worst haircut,” he would say, with wisdom born of experience. This puzzled my young mind, so one day I asked why.

“When business is slow, the barbers cut each others’ hair. The barber with the worst haircut obviously had it done by one of the others, so if you don’t go to him, chances are you’ll end up in the chair of the barber who gave him that bad cut. And you don’t want that. So always go to the barber with the worst haircut.” What was counterintuitive before now made sense, and from that day I have always followed my dad’s advice, at least as far as barbers are concerned.

I should have remembered that lesson when the time came to choose a videographer to shoot the biennial musical at the local high school. The students had worked on Grease at rehearsals after school for five months, learning lines and memorizing songs, building and painting flats, sewing costumes, and perfecting their hair and makeup skills. The show was to run for only two nights—Thursday and Friday—with a dress rehearsal on Wednesday afternoon for kids from neighboring schools. I was helping out with the sound for the show—nine wireless Sennheiser mics, four hanging Shures over the stage, a couple of spot mics, a lectern mic, and voice of God from the booth, along with a handful of sound effects played off a CD I had prepared—no big deal.

I planned to record the direct output from the school's ancient console, a Tac Bullet, onto a Fostex timecode DAT machine that had lately been gathering dust. And since I was recording the show, the teachers thought it would be a nice idea to videotape it as well, to be able to give the kids a DVD as a souvenir of all their hard work that would otherwise vanish without a trace at the end of the week. I could use ProTools to sync my DAT with the videotape production sound, and mix a little of it in for extra ambience from the house.

In choosing someone affordable (read: cheap) to shoot it, I reviewed some of the student films from the film school where I teach audio post-production on a part-time basis. There was one student whose work stood out from the pack. Mort (not his real name) agreed to the job for a modest honorarium, even though he now considered himself a professional, and at my suggestion he attended the Thursday evening show to scope out the job. On Friday, he showed up an hour before curtain to set up his Panasonic DVX-100 on a riser at the rear of the auditorium and make sure everything was in order.

I was a little concerned to see that he was using 60-minute DV tapes, as I had timed each act at just under an hour, and suggested that he keep his color bars to 30 seconds in order to preserve tape. Act One went extremely well. The audience was hugely supportive and the cast seemed to feed off that, turning in wonderful performances. When I left the booth at intermission to compare notes with Mort, he appeared calm and competent. The tape had not run out early, as I had feared it might. After watching him change tapes, I returned to the booth for Act Two, which went over even better than Act One.

After the show wound down to thunderous applause and the cast took their curtain calls, flowers were presented to the five teachers who had worked so hard with the kids to mount the show. I left the booth to see if Mort was getting this extra action. With a big, self-assured grin, he gave me the thumbs up. I was a little concerned, because this extra action had taken the Act Two roll past the 60-minute mark. “Did you get it all?” I asked as he was leaving. “Sure did,” he replied, adding that he would be in touch over the weekend, and might even have the footage converted to QuickTime for me to complete the minimal audio post.

Mort emailed me the next day to say there were a couple of “small problems” with the footage, including a little shake in Act One, caused by his knee hitting the tripod. He went on to add, “The biggest issue was that I was not able to capture the first scene of the second act which was the dance sequence. The reason for this," he explained, "was human error. However, on the final DVD, it would not be a hard cut; it will just be a fade-in into the black out of the first scene in the second act.” He then asked about settlement of his invoice.

When I phoned for clarification, he said he had realized he was still in standby during the first number in Act Two, but had decided to wait for the song to end before going back into record because it would be “smoother” that way. I was flabbergasted! “Why would you wait?!” I bellowed. “You should have got back in as soon as you realized you were still in standby, and we would have dealt with the transition in post!” Clearly, he had known that he hadn’t got it all even as he assured me the night before that he had. Why lie when it’s patently obvious that you’re going to be found out?

When Mort delivered the QuickTime movie of his footage a few days later, I was heartbroken. He had cropped off heads, shot extreme close-ups that made smooth panning to the next performer hopelessly impossible, zoomed in on the wrong performers, framed the boys when the girls were singing and vice-versa, missed Sandy’s star entrance—you name it. But what really hurt was that he had missed not just the first scene of Act Two as he had indicated in his email—he had been in standby for over 18 minutes! I had hired him to document a performance that would never again be repeated and he had missed a huge chunk of it. Sad to say, this film school alumnus isn’t qualified to shoot a high school musical.

To make a long story short, I was able to find a couple of students who had videotaped Thursday’s performance on the school’s Everio camera, and was able to supply the missing material from their footage. Since I had been recording to DAT both nights, I could easily sync up Thursday’s audio off the console. Mort de-interlaced the Everio footage and applied some color correction to help it match his own. To add insult to injury, however, he somehow managed to slip his own footage of the remainder of Act Two some three seconds and seven frames out of sync with his production audio, something I discovered when he delivered the second QuickTime movie file.

Had I chosen a competent person for the job, none of the additional running around and wasted time would have been necessary, and I would not be wearing the brown helmet today. I really should have asked around for a recommendation and looked for someone who was at least apprenticing on real films under the demands of real-world pressures and deadlines.

Reflecting on my poor choice choice of videographer, it occurred to me that film school students all work on each others’ films, assuming different roles in the various departments each time—hair, makeup, sound, camera, and so on. Instead of hiring Mort himself, I should have asked him who had been behind the lens on his great looking film, and then approached that person instead of him.

That's when I realized that I had ignored my dad’s sage advice. After all these years, I had gone to the wrong barber.

Songwriter Catherine Bacque on CBC Radio 3

Toronto-based singer-songwriter Catherine Bacque is now featured on CBC Radio 3, a new service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that's billed as the home of independent Canadian music. Her limited edition EP Letting Go—produced by yours truly—can be streamed live from Radio 3, and is available for download on iTunes and CD Baby.

Each of the CD's five songs spotlights a different facet of Catherine's amazing talent. Kicking off with I Did, I Will, I Do, the album hits high gear right away with a brash, no-nonsense anthem featuring Catherine's insistent acoustic guitar figures and the incisive Telecaster of Tim Bovaconti (Burton Cummings, Ron Sexsmith) in a take-no-prisoners paean to the power of love.

In Fly, we hear in Catherine's voice and lyrics the determination of a triumphant survivor of the fickle fates of love. Montreal-based virtuoso bassist Alain Caron (Alain Caron Band, Uzeb) underscores Catherine with his six-string fretless in a riveting melodic duet.

Next, the haunting melody and lyrics of With You  are perfectly complemented by Jack Gelbloom's (Take Five) evocative jazz piano and Doug Cotton's (Format, John) tasteful precision drumming.

Kicking it up again with Say That You Want Me, Catherine shows that she knows how to rock with the best of them. Tim's guitar punctuation and Jack's joyously infectious B3 are anchored by my Motown-inspired bass line.

The album wraps up with You're Still Mine, a love song of steadfastness and faithfulness in the face of life's struggles and shortcomings, aimed as much at your children as your lover.

Letting Go cover art
(Photography by Doug Cotton. CD design by Paul Kelly, Gecko Graphics)

Catherine is a Canadian singer/songwriter with roots in 60s and 70s folk, pop, and rock. Her style ranges from jazzy ballads to straight out country rock. According to her mother, Catherine sang in the cradle while her father played Vivaldi and Benny Goodman on the stereo. Later, her parents introduced her to the Beatles, Elvis, Duke Ellington, Gilles Vigneault, Monique Leyrac, Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell.

Catherine went on to discover Emmylou Harris, traditional Canadian folk music, and classic American country artists such as Patsy Cline and Hank Williams. Today Catherine loves to listen to Sarah McLachlan, Dala, The Dixie Chicks, The Tragically Hip, Melissa McClelland, Kathleen Edwards and Sheryl Crow.

More information, photos & lyrics: and