Friday, December 19, 2014

A New Pre-Amp

Ok, ok, ok. There is a known thing out there called G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and it is a serious affliction that affects techie types.

First of all, to be successful in VO, you need talent and a way to capture that talent. You don't need ProTools and a $3000 microphone. You do need a quiet space and a quality microphone that fits that space that captures your dulcet tones and you'll need some sort of software to edit and get that audio out the door.

George Whittam is a great source for those looking to set up and make buckets of money. Keep it simple stupid. (KISS) And George has mentioned once or twice that the gear that's out there and available to you at a reasonable price is just fine for Voice Over work. To spend more money on more expensive gear starts to get into the minutia of audio.

An Audio Tecnica AT2020 USB microphone and a laptop running Audacity (FREE!) will get you started and from there you dream about a better microphone, and better software. That's how G.A.S. starts. If you're like me, you surf and read reviews over at or and start thinking about spending money. I say it's money burning a hole in your common sense.

Now that I've said all that!

I've been wanting to upgrade my ART MPA Gold preamp. I had put in some vintage Mullard tubes and it has been FINE. Nothing really wrong with it, it gets me work and is quiet and does the job.


I started reading about EMI records, the Beatles and the famed Redd 47 preamp that EMI used in their console. Ok. So I have a Neumann U87ai microphone, and the Redd 47 is supposed to be a great match to it. Shoot.

So I start looking around. Drip Electronics has a nice kit, but presently out of stock, Phaedrus Audio in the UK further stoked the fire, but the present conversion rate of the pound to the dollar made the price a bit un-attractive. Then I find Dizengoff Audio and their D4. $599.00 of tube amp, Redd 47 clone magic.


Howz it sound? I'm dialing it in, but right out of the box this is clean, clear and puts the vocals right into the center of a mix. Not as bass heavy as the ART MPA was, which is fine, I don't want to create a mix of mud. It has phantom power, which the Drip Electronics kit does not have. A pad to knock things down on the output and a phase inverter if needed. The rest is just a couple of gain knobs, rough and fine.

On the back is a XLR input and output. On the front is 1/4" input for an instrument. (hmmm, might have to pick up a cheap Les Paul) That's it. Nothing else in the signal path or any built in compressors or eq. Just a preamp.

So this sound file ABTest.mp3 is me reading first into the ART MPA then the Dizengoff D4, the first phrase is the ART, the repeat of the phrase is the D4. I'm going to continue dialing it in and working with it, but so far, I'm pretty happy. I think I'm done with G.A.S. for a little while.. (no. seriously.)

You may listen to the two preamps back to back and say, "They sound pretty much the same…" and that's true, they are VERY close. Going back to what George said, spending more gets you a tiny percentage higher quality, tiny. But I hear a difference and I like it, the key word for me is clarity, and this D4 has it in spades.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

ipDTL (I piddled?) No...

Ok, this is going to be short and sweet.

Go ahead, check it out. You'll need Google Chrome
I have tried, and tried to get ISDN in my studio and
have failed. My local phone company is Fairpoint
Communications, but the phone lines and connection is somehow owned by Verizon. Fairpoint was in bankruptcy proceedings, so they're really not interested in helping me get ISDN.


But now… oh man, I hope it's as good as it says it is… ipDTL is available.

Yesterday I was able to connect over DSL, using Google Chrome and ipDTL to a studio in Birmingham Alabama. They said it sounded great!

I think it's witchcraft!

Seriously. It has to be magic. I'm in the woods, my computer is connected via WiFi, and then Fairpoint DSL, that audio stream is flying over the wire down to a studio and we're able to converse just as if I'm in the booth. At first I could here myself as they had me in the mix, once the removed me from the mix (mix-minus) it sounded normal, but even then, when I was in the mix, the delay was only a fraction of a second.


For now, I've only done the monthly plan of $25.00 with the intention of going to a yearly $160.00 plan if I get one more gig out of it.

Give it a go, let the world know you can connect, and get busy!

Monday, June 16, 2014

One Bowl

This is a post I've been meaning to write for a while.

It SORT OF has to do with V.O. work as I'm in the middle of a 30 pound challenge for FaffCon 7. I can't make FaffCon 7 due to a scheduling conflict, however I have been carrying around an extra 30 to 40 pounds of weight that I can certainly afford to lose.

Wait, Monk, you're giving weight loss tips?

Um. kinda.

I have this working theory that we eat too much. We eat too much for our level of activity and personally I eat to quickly. I can finish a meal before you even think about starting. NOM it's gone.

So the old tried and true, reduce calories and increase exercise, it sells magazines and books every day. All different renditions of the same thing. Cut down in the intake of calories, increase the burning of calories, the result is a reduction in overall weight.

Those calories are sneaky, THEY'RE IN EVERYTHING! And you have to make smart choices of where you want those calories to come from. I'm not going to give up a glass of wine or two at the end of the day. (aprox 175 calories for ONE 6oz glass of wine!)

Ok ok. So we limit the intake of calories, I'm aiming for a day of 1300-1500 calories with a morning walk.

What does that mean? A sausage egg McMuffin with a hash brown is 570 calories according to the chart at the drive up. Ok, not bad, I'm reserving calories for those two glasses of wine brings me up to 920 calories for the day. That's not including lunch or dinner! YIPES.

No egg McMuffin. 

How about an egg and toast for breakfast? The egg averages out to 70 calories, the toast dials in another 70 or so, (spelt whole grain) and a pat of butter is 36 calories. 176 calories!

There's room there to make this work!

So back to the One Bowl thought.

Not to big, not to small.
Excluding green vegetables, which do have calories but we're going to excuse them from being counted. And I mean kale, broccoli, lettuce, etc, not root vegetables like carrots or potatoes. I think it takes more energy to break down celery or cucumber than you get out of it. I don't have scientific proof, but really it's just fiber and water, eat up.

Find a small bowl that fits comfortably in one hand.

One hand. Not a big cereal bowl. A bowl that just fits your fist. This is your meal bowl.

The protein and carbohydrate goes in here. Again, be careful, don't make it a bowl of ravioli! I'm talking brown rice and chicken or meat or fish. This is about portion control!

And even if it is a bowl of ravioli, it's One Bowl.

If you get hungry in a few hours, grab some vegetables and load up. This isn't hard, but put down the bag of chips, step away from the donut, and leave the 4 course dinner to special occasions.


People are having their stomachs pinched and stapled to lose weight. Pinch and staple that huge dinner plate!

Slow down, calm down, consume less, weigh less. One Bowl.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

You Can't Build an Airplane!

In my basement, next to the motorcycle project are the parts to a Spencer Aircar. It's a homebuilt design by the guy who designed the SeaBee. It's a HUGE project

The Spencer Aircar amphibian

Stick with me, there's a reason I'm telling you about this. An airplane is a complex contraption that has moving parts, an engine, wiring, etc. To imagine building one can cause the brain to freeze up and all motor functions to stop.

And here's my point. Sometimes the "big picture" is too big. Instead of tackling it, it gets pushed aside for easier projects.

The Metaphor 

An airplane is a good example, because just the thought, to most people causes a reaction. But this same idea can be applied to learning to play guitar, trumpet or any instrument. It also can be applied to the business of Voice Over.

Becoming a successful V.O. talent can be overwhelming if looked at all at once. (Perhaps not so if you just think you'll buy a microphone and go make money.) But this is a business, it requires marketing, training, tools, and everything else that goes along creating a business. If you were to open up a dentist's office, there's a list of things to check off before you drill your first bicuspid.

The Airplane

The phrase "You Can't Build an Airplane" is common in the home builder, experimental aircraft field. The follow up phrase is, "But you can build parts, that then becomes assembled into an airplane."

That's the key to getting it done. Every day, every single day, work on a small part of the airplane. Cut pieces, read the schematic, glue up a piece of something. No less than 20 minutes to touch the project and do something.

The same holds true for learning an instrument. It's not how many years you've been practicing, it's how many hours. An airplane can take 7000 hours to build from scratch. Taking a bite out of that, bit by bit is how it gets done.

Every Day

Even a small task. A minuscule item. A phone call, an email, research a production company, has value. If you were learning guitar I'd say you strum a G chord, to a C chord to a D chord for 20 minutes.

This all makes sense right? You've heard the phrases! "Slow and steady wins the race." "The longest journey begins with a single step." and so on!

Do something for your business EVERY DAY. Don't put it off till tomorrow and do twice as much. Because then you run the risk of the brain saying, "There's too much to do!" and you'll lock up and become that deer in the headlights.

You can create the parts that becomes your success. One day at a time.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Vocal Warmup

I was having a conversation with my friend Lee a few months back and we were kidding around about vocal warm ups.

A quick clearing of the throat and off to the booth.

Yah, no.

The voice box, as you may or may not be aware of is two thin muscles that shape the noise of the air passing over them. Imagine when you hold a balloon, and you let the air out, and you make noises by tightening and manipulating the end where the air escapes. Same concept.

The tone then gets further shaped by the soft palate, the tongue, teeth, lips and sinus cavity. All well and good, blah, blah, blah.

How do you "warm" up this thing?

Here's what I do. It's plain, simple and puts me in a good mood.

I sing.

Full rip, no fear, belt it out Broadway style singing. Start soft with the first verse, build it for the second verse and smack the back of the house with the third verse.

Find a Broadway song that is in your range. Don't stretch to Tenor or Soprano if you can't comfortably get there. THAT'S NOT THE POINT. This is a song that sits right in your wheelhouse. For me, it's "Try to Remember" from The Fantasticks, a song that when I played El Gallo, (I know..) I went out and got some training from a teacher. He said my technique was fine, but this song needs the confidence behind it to make it soar. Just let it go. Really send it out there with everything you have.

Don't destroy the voice by pushing too hard, just make it full, solid and loud. Bust out that inner diva.


A good half hour before a session sing it at least twice through. Now you may be wondering, where on earth can you do this?  I can do this in the car easily enough on the way to a session, or in my own space prior to recording, but if you're in a tiny apartment and about to get on the Subway, use the bathroom at home. They generally have some decent reverb. A stairwell is an ok place, but EVERYONE is going to hear you. Which, depending on your neighbors, could be a good or bad thing.


Good question. Just like stretching or warming up before going for a jog, it gets the blood moving and opens up those pipes. You'll move some phlegm (lovely word) out of the way and open up the lungs with some air. During most of the day, people take shallow breadths, this is the time to breath in deep and let it out long.

Test yourself. Do a two sentence recording of a script prior to a singing session and after. You should hear a marked difference. A fullness more rounded delivery.


Bass / Baratone: 
Try to Remember - The Fantasticks
Master of the House - Les Miserables
The Impossible Dream - Man of La Mancha
If I Were a Rich Man - Fiddler on the Roof

Any Dream Will Do - Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat
I Dreamed a Dream- Les Miserables 
On My Own- Les Miserables 

Let it Go - Frozen

I won't list Tenor or Soprano, as they have SO many songs since they're usually the lead. 


The key is, use one or two songs. But nail them. Get into them. Sing your heart out. This is for you, you're not necessarily going to perform these on stage, this is for you to get your sound warmed up in a way that moves through a dynamic range and a relaxed state. Have fun with it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Advantage of You

I'm in Grad School. Yep, I guess holding down a day job, acting at night and doing V.O. work while renovating the house and restoring a motorcycle… WASN'T BUSY ENOUGH for me.


So we're studying Communications and Information Management at Bay Path College, fine. And here we are in the second semester and I have heard this reoccurring theme, not only in class and in the books, but also from people in the world I respect.

Create value, by being unique.

You see, in the world of V.O. some people will say, "It's VERY competitive!" and that's true and it isn't true. You have to be good at this; a good reader, a good actor, someone who can interpret a script, etc. But NO ONE is like you.

No one.

Market that uniqueness of you.

It's that old philosophical idea of "be yourself." Don't be like Madonna, or Tiger Woods, they got to their level by BEING THEMSELVES!

And that's the trick of it really. It's hard to not be influenced by the world around you, and you will be influenced, but as many times as someone says that I remind them of Jackie Gleason or a young Nathan Lane, I am not them. I like those guys, but alas I am Monk.

Presently I'm in the process of going through a branding exercise with Celia Siegle whom I met at the last FaffCon in San Antonio TX. I hired her to look at my branding and give me a going over. She said that was good, but it didn't have my "Personality" represented. The font didn't give people enough insight to what it would be like working with me. To formal. And my demo needed updating.

Good solid advice. So we're booking time with a director in New York, going to head to a studio next week, and we are going to get a new demo done. When talking on the phone, David, (the director) wanted me to talk about myself to find out who I am. What's my style, where did I feel the most natural.

I'll keep you posted on that as we move into next week.

The thing I'm looking forward to, is being more me. Letting the me, be me. Because there's no one else quite like me.

Or you. And that has value. And that value, is your sustainable advantage in the market…