Fritz Files – conclusion

Recording with Fritz was memorable! Musicians almost never record without headphones. There are many reasons to use headphones when recording a group. Some instruments are louder and it is hard to hear the soft instruments without headphones. Distances between musicians – necessary to balance the loudness of different instruments for recording purposes – can result in delays that make it much harder to achieve a serious groove. Our brain computes the direction of sound using the delay that is produced by the distance between our ears. In other words a sound originating from the left side will take milliseconds longer to reach the right ear. That allows the brain to identify the location of the sound. If the musicians sit more than a few feet apart the soundwaves may take several milliseconds to reach the ears and the delay will make it difficult to play in time. Luckily this is the hardest grooving band I have ever had and we were able to mentally compensate for the distances.

Taking a walk on Tuesday afternoon, after recording for several hours, I noticed that my mind was hyper-sensitive to the location of sounds. During recording sessions – and on stage while performing – my brain enters a different state, where pitch and time become enlarged. It’s like experiencing an aural version of slow-motion. In this state the smallest change in pitch or rhythm becomes very obvious. Working with Fritz and recording without headphones my mind became really sensitized to the location of sounds. And during my walk I kept noticing the location of sounds around me in such clear detail! A bird flapping his wings, a plane overhead, birds singing, the wind in the leaves, a truck in the distance… I mentioned this to he others yesterday and they all had the same experience.

We recorded one song with my old and slightly noisy video-camera in the studio room. Stevo will help me match up Fritz’s audio with the video we shot. That will make it possible to watch our performance in the studio while hearing exactly what Fritz heard – if you listen with headphones. You will see me circling Fritz at one point – not an easy feat to play guitar while moving around if you don’t use a strap – and Davo moving around while playing shaker. I will announce when the video will be available for your viewing/listening pleasure.

For some recordings we moved quite a bit. Sometimes Stevo and I would both be moving around, to balance softer and louder playing and to create some interesting aural movement. We decided against doing any overdubs or edits and hope to present the album in our ListeningLounge – now also accessible from – very soon.

The Fritz Files, Day One

In the studio – recording with Fritz, the binaural dummy head… took a break to order pizzas for lunch.
Good first day. Did two different setups around Fritz. Took a vote and decided to recorded 24/96k. The photos here show the first setup, with Fritz facing the guitars. Alan suggested a title for the album: “The Fritz Files“. Another person suggested My Binaural Experience. I am leaning towards The Fritz Files – a Kunstkopf Recording.
I like the German word Kunstkopf for its double-meaning: Kunst means artificial in this context, but the general meaning of the word is Art.

Wednesday, August 8th

Our rehearsal this morning was fun. Great to play with those guys again. We are leaving Santa Fe via bus this evening and I am (almost) packed…

Worked on one of Davo’s tunes yesterday. He has a wonderful way of smoothly and seamlessly moving from one rhythm to another and I like his pieces a lot. He recorded himself singing guide-melodies for me, which I learned to play on the guitar. Being a drummer, his phrasing is quite different from the way I might naturally phrase a melody, which I find very interesting. Anyway, more beautiful music coming your way sometime next year!

Introduced the band to Fritz and we discussed different recording options. At first we will make a straightforward “Live” recording. Then we will also experiment with overdubbing elements like electric guitar or synthesizer. It might be very cool to have the band play “holophonic” and then add simple stereo elements (electric guitar and synth). Another option is to use a real electric guitar amp (that’s so last century – I don’t eve own one anymore) and place it in the room with Fritz. One thing we will have to experiment with is how layering stereo tracks recorded with Fritz sound. What happens when we record the band playing a song via Fritz and then Dave does a percussion overdub with Fritz. Can we simply blend the two stereo pairs? I assume so, but we will have to see.

steve asks:
So … do microphones go in Fritz’s ears, or … hmmm … how exactly does Fritz work?

Good question, Steve. The microphones are inside the ears, placed as anatomically correct as possible.
Lovely Ear, Fritz!
The shape of the dummy’s ear affects how the soundwaves arrive at the microphone just the same as if they were arriving at your ear! And the nose is important as well as it “splits” the soundwaves in a specific way we are used to. That’s the secret to Binaural or Holophonic recording. See, when a movie studio produces surround sound, whether it is Dolby or DTS, 5.1 (Front-Left, Center, Front-Right, Rear-Left, Rear-Right and Sub-Woofer) or 7.1 (same PLUS Mid-Left and Mid-Right) – it is always a multi-channel recording that has been placed inside the speaker-matrix. That approximates space, but only very crudely. If somebody slowly moves around you while talking to you, you don’t just hear the sound come from 5.1 or 7.1 locations! No, you observe a fluid space – influenced by the shape of the room and the surfaces in the room – in which your mind can localize the voice (you hear with your ears, but you listen with your mind!). Trust me, you will all be blown away by the intimacy created by a binaural recording. It will sound as if you are sitting in the middle of my studio, surrounded by the musicians. The question that remains for me is how “pleasant” the recording will be. We are used to adding reverb to individual tracks, adding equalization and otherwise sweetening up the sound, but the nature of this kind of recording does not permit any of that.

After returning from this short California run we will start experimenting with Fritz next week. The official recording days are August 20-22. Alan will engineer and direct the recording since we have to “mix” the instruments by sitting closer or further away from the dummy…

related links:
Wikipedia: Surround Sound
Wikipedia: Binaural Recording
Wikipedia: Dummy Head Recording
and this: Wikipedia: Binaural Beats is something altogether different