Producer's VU - July 1998

Rob Walker, Alice@104.1 WALC/St. Louis: “Alice Unplugged Jingle”

producers-vu-logo-2by Craig Rogers

An effective jingle is memorable. It sticks in your mind, forcing recall of whatever the jingle is for. It became apparent to me that Rob Walker of WALC, Alice@104.1 in St Louis had created a very effective jingle for the “Alice Unplugged” show when, three days after we’d talked about this piece, I found myself humming it while mowing the lawn.

alice-1041-logoThis jingle is one of ten Rob has produced so far. Each reflects the style of an artist whose music might be played on “Alice Unplugged.” He calls this one his “Eddie Money” jingle. You can hear it on The Cassette and read here about Rob’s production of it.

This piece began with a stock library bed from a BRG barter library. Rob and then morning man Joe DeNiro were scanning through CDs and improvising lyrics as they went. When they finished writing the lyrics, Rob recorded the music bed into his SAWPlus32 workstation. His SAW runs on a Pentium 200 with 64 megs of RAM and a 4.5 gig hard drive. Rob also runs Sound Forge 4.0 on this box as an adjunct to SAW.

Male singer is Joe. He needed a countdown to lead him into the music, so Rob played back the music from SAW, and while recording onto another track, he tapped his mic along with the tempo for a few measures. He then slid this tap track backwards so that there were four measures of tapping to lead Joe into the start of the music.

He used his Rode NT-2 mic to record Joe. He ran it through his Symetrix 528 processor with the threshold at –10 and a 3:1 compression ratio. He rolled off the bottom end lightly. He also used the noise gate to help reduce the noise from computer fans and the bounce from the two windows in the studio.

Rob used a send buss from his Mackie 1604 board to provide Joe a headphone mix that kept his voice lower in the mix. Rob meanwhile could monitor a different mix with Joe more prominent through the program buss of the Mackie.

Joe made one pass through the song. Then he made a second and third pass to record a doubled vocal for the chorus. He carried the tune nicely, but did miss a note or two. Rob fixed those by moving the bad note to another track and applying the correct amount of Vari Shift. He had to move these to another track because SAW applies the effect to the entire track, not just a region. Rob also did some editing to clean up the breaths between phrases.

Rob processed Joe’s backing vocals a bit differently than the lead. He used more compression plus a reverb from his ART DR-X 2100. He used preset “Reverb 3.” The backing vocals are panned slightly left and right to help spread the image. The female backing vocal is Jai C, Alice’s midday jock. Rob says she was a perfect choice since she’s a karaoke junkie. Rob wanted the cleanest sound possible with her. Her voice would be back in the mix, so he didn’t want the fan noise inherent in his main studio. Solution: move the RE-20 microphone out to the hall. Again, using the sends of the Mackie, Rob supplied Jai C with a headphone mix of the music plus Joe’s tracks. She then recorded her first harmony vocal. Before she sang the second harmony vocal, Rob added her previous take to her headphone mix so she could hear the entire song building. Her mic was also fed through the Symetrix 528 with the same settings used for Joe.

Both of Jai C’s vocals were then sent out of SAW through the ART for some chorusing to thicken them up. These chorused tracks were then sent out of SAW for another pass through the ART for reverb. Rob has the option of chaining these two effects together within the ART so he could have done the chorusing and reverb in one pass. However, he wanted the option of hearing the effect of each effect, so he added them one at a time. The finished backing tracks were panned slightly left and right and using SAW’s internal mixer, ducked 10 dB below the lead vocal level.

The finished jingle is dubbed to the Scott Studios workstation for on air playback. Rob wanted the sound of a heavily compressed pop record, so he ran the full mix through his Alesis 3630 compressor/limiter with a ratio of 4:1. He returned that compressed signal through the Mackie, then sent it back through the ART reverb (Hall Reverb 3) to help blend everything together. He dropped the reverb prior to the spoken line that closes the jingle.

By the way, a “Chocodile” is a chocolate covered Twinkie—may be worth a trip to St Louis to get some of those! If you’d like to reach Rob, for a Chocodile or anything else, e-mail Rwalker653@aol.com or call (314) 621-0400.

Next month, Producer’s VU spotlights a terrific piece of sound design from the ProTools studio of Jeff Schmidt at KFOG/San Francisco.