It is with a heavy heart that we inform you all of the very sad news that our amazing friend and talented colleague Kevin Becka passed away yesterday, 19th May 2019 after a very brave fight with pancreatic cancer, which was diagnosed just before Christmas of 2018. The audio production industry has lost a true legend and our thoughts and prayers go out to Kevin’s family, colleagues and friends.
Russ Hughes has summed up all our thoughts with this. “He was a huge talent but best of all he was one of the most decent people I knew in the industry. Even until the end he continued to care about others.”
This memorial has been published on Kevin’s Facebook wall…
He started playing the guitar at 11 years old and aspired to become a famous guitar player. He eventually joined a band at the age of 16, called "1812," playing the guitar as well as performing vocals and writing songs. This time in his life gifted him with strong and faithful friendships that would continue almost 50 years until his passing. In the years to follow, he performed in a variety of bands while living in Tempe, Arizona, and later in the Los Angeles, California area.
Eventually, he realized he had a passion for engineering, while working on construction crews building recording studios throughout the Los Angeles area, and later becoming an assistant engineer in one of the studios he helped build. Kevin worked with many well-known artists on successful albums (Kenny G., Quincy Jones, Michael Bolton, George Benson, Natalie Cole, George Lynch, and many others).
In addition to becoming a well-respected music engineer, Kevin took on the role of writing for different music-related trade magazines, settling in with Mix Magazine as the Tech Editor in 2003.
Kevin was a teacher at heart and his greatest satisfaction came from teaching music engineering to students for many years at the Conservatory of Recording Arts (Arizona) and then later moving to Nashville, Tennessee, to help set up The Blackbird Academy in Nashville (he calls this his biggest lifetime achievement), and teaching eager students the fine details of engineering in the real world of music. He always believed in quality of a person's work and tried to share that with everyone he taught.
Another passion of Kevin's was bicycling as a hobby when the weather and time allowed, and finally his most proud cycling achievement in 2018 organizing and participating in a 500-mile fundraiser along the coast of California, inspired by the brave recovery of a student paralyzed after being hit by a texting driver while cycling home from a day at Blackbird Academy. Kevin felt great pride about the event and the team that was put together to pull it all off; and was personally inspired by the student, David, who actually participated in the ride as well with his new wife on a tandem bicycle (dubbed "Blue Steel") that Kevin had gifted to them for the ride. After Kevin and Helen had ridden it for several years they decided this was the perfect chance for it to move on to better things.
Kevin was a devoted husband to wife, Helen, and stepfather to Marshall and Conner. He loved being a step-dad and a "daddy" to his beloved dogs (all rescues), including fostering several dogs through the years, and was known to bring one of the dogs to work for "test day" at Blackbird.
With his departure from this earthly existence Kevin leaves behind: Helen (wife), Marshall and Conner (step-sons), Loretta (mother), Rorie (brother), Mary (sister-in-law), Anne (sister), and Tim (brother-in-law). Nieces and nephews: Matt, Megan, Amalea, Aleana, Andrew, Aesher, Arelea, Apollo, Jacob, and Joshua; and extended family (cousins). Fur-kids: Dude, Leo, Sophie, and Liza.
Kevin most certainly was met upon his passing by his beloved pet dogs (Rexy, Bella, Amy) as this hope brought him great comfort in the last days of his life, as well as those family members who have died before him. His expressed wish for friends he has left behind is to remember him through a donation to Agape Animal Rescue (Nashville, TN), in his name. In this way, he feels he will continue to live on and save other dogs like those that made his remaining days and hours bearable. Dying in his own bed at home with his dogs and family around him was his true desire and could not have been made possible without Avalon Hospice Care and the kind nurse, chaplain, and staff that attended and comforted him throughout his last months and final days/hours.
Thank you to all friends who have enriched his life and made him smile, laugh, and wrinkle his face in "that funny way" to be silly. His sense of humor always lightened the moment, even during initial diagnosis of cancer, chemotherapy treatments, and final palliative care/hospice at home.
A service with family and close friends will be scheduled at a later date.
A Selection Of The Great Articles Kevin Becka Produced For The Production Expert Communities
As our tribute to all that Kevin stood for and believed in and his generous spirit in sharing his knowledge and experience with all he came in contact with, here is a selection of the content he freely shared with this community. We will miss you Kevin…
TNR Products' Booty Shaker isolation mounts are the brainchild of guitarist/composer Rich Wiley, and professional drummer Toby Ahrens. After much experimentation they came up with two products, the Booty Shaker floor tom isolation mounts ($15.39 + tax), and mounted tom and snare mounts ($22.39 + tax.) We recently had a chance to put these products to the test under ideal conditions at Blackbird Studio in Nashville, TN.
Today at The Blackbird Academy in Nashville, TN students wrote reports on some of the most iconic compressors from the last 60 years. If you've used them, put your stories in the comments section. Or maybe you've used them as plug-ins. What's your favorite style of compression? The models pictured below range from tube, solid state, vari-mu styles, feedback, and feedforward. Tell us your thoughts and what style and model floats your boat.
There's no better way to get a great drum recording than by starting with the perfect kit, then capturing it in a large room using excellent mics. Check out this recording made at a recent summer camp for teens held at The Blackbird Academy in Nashville, TN. Campers came from as far as Australia and Wales to learn about music production. They took part in the setup, then played the kit recorded by an all-star array of microphones.
We all have love affairs with our favorite mics, but there are some that approach bucket-list status. The collection of mics listed below are some of the rarest and most expensive tube condensers in the collection at Blackbird Studio in Nashville, TN. They are listed in ascending order by price and status.
Today at The Blackbird Academy in Nashville, TN it's another vintage gear immersion day where students explore some of the most iconic EQs from the last 50 years. Can you name them? Or better yet maybe you've used them? If so tell us your stories in the comments. What's your favorite?
If your experience with audio processors is mainly using plug-ins, it can be a challenge when you encounter an analog hardware device. There's no menu full of one-size-fits-all, celebrity engineer presets to get you started. The truth is if you want to grow as an engineer you're better off without presets. It forces you to jump into uncomfortable territory, do some research and use your ears to make decisions about what you like, or don't like, and if it works, or doesn't in any given situation. In this feature, we're going to explore hardware advantages and dig into the workings and setup of the revered 1176 compressor.
The studio patch bay is where the signal flow is born, or dies - your patches have the power to make or break the session. But fear not! Understanding all those inputs and outputs and how they work together is a formidable undertaking but the tips in this free tutorial will help cut through the confusion and put you in good shape the next time you navigate difficult signal flows.
When recording vocals and acoustic instruments together in the same room, leakage can be your worst enemy. But by choosing the proper microphone and pattern, then placing them with care you can end up with usable tracks that don't fight each other.
Learn how Production Expert team member Kevin Becka chose to mic up a vintage drum kit with a combination of great vintage mics together with some modern mics. Listen to the great sound he was able to capture in Blackbird's Iconic Studio A ISO 3.
If you own or have access to a cherished tube condenser mic, it's important to protect your investment and keep it in tip-top shape. Besides everyday wear-and-tear, the thing that can cause mic failure is operator error when handling the mic before and after a session. Below are time-tested techniques for the proper setup and tear down of tube mics developed by The Blackbird Academy located at Blackbird Studio in Nashville, Tennessee.
The term "trash mic" refers to a microphone used to record anything including vocals, guitars, and in this case drums. This mic can be lo-res by design or created by the engineer by using guitar pedals, a wah pedal, or anything else that will render a distorted and chaotic-sounding result.
The mics over your drum kit are your best way to get a reliable, and in-phase sonic picture of the entire kit into your mix. Properly placing your mics is a critical task yet it doesn't add much more time to your setup. It all starts with relationships to your kick and snare. Watch this free video tutorial to see to see 3 tips in action.
Me? Make more money now? SURE! It all boils down to knowing the tricks and techniques that bring you more €€€ - £££ - $$$. The ten tips below span workflows both inside and outside of Pro Tools. You may already know and use some of these tips, but maybe not all so watch the free video tutorial to see all of them in action.
Rather than reaching for an EQ when trying to problem solve in a mix, try a multi-band compressor instead. It gives you all the frequency-carving tools you're used in an EQ plus the ability to add punch and definition to the envelope of your track.
The underlying theme of any session is to foster an environment where the talent feels confident in the process allowing them to express themselves and their creativity. You can acquire these high-end skills over time, but you can also speed up the process and reach new plateaus by doing your homework. This list of Top 20 skills and shortcuts are wickedly simple and are built to give you a time-tested, solid group of shortcuts to bring your chops to the next level.
When recording and mixing vocals, the more consistent the performance, the better the song. But a great vocal track or vocal stack doesn't always start that way. For example, background vocals, (aka BGVs) can be especially challenging because of the number of tracks in the mix which can often multiply your problems. This free tutorial will outline five workflows you can use to refine your background vocals and make them all-star contributors to a great mix.
The workflows used for Pro Tools tracking and overdub sessions are vastly different. For example, when you're cutting your tracks on a console, Pro Tools acts as a capture recorder with faders and panners zeroed. The console is used for mixing, adding effects, and sending cue mixes to the talent. But the next day when you move to overdubs this all changes to an in-the-box scenario where Pro Tools is the recorder, mixer, and more. This lets you record overdubs in a more affordable environment like a smaller home studio. The setup time when moving between these workflows can cut into your creative flow but not if you're organized. The following tutorial will take you through preparation, execution, and other best practices for quickly moving from tracking to overdubs.
When Avid introduced Pro Tools 2018 at NAMM in Anaheim, it introduced major workflow improvements for comping tracks from playlists. But what if you don’t have the latest version, instead opting for Pro Tools 12 or earlier? The following tutorial will demonstrate best practices for the latest and earlier versions that allow you to quickly make a composite track from multiple playlists.
Digital vs. Analog? Tube vs. Solid State? Pro Tools 11 vs. 2018? Everyone has a preference. But when it comes to using effects plug-ins in a Pro Tools session, there's no doubt that instancing plug-ins in parallel is far better than putting them directly on the audio track. As Woody Brown would say, it's like night and south. What's special about doing it this way? Apart from being able to share effects from many source tracks, instancing plug-ins in parallel buy you at least five solid advantages over those instanced directly on the track.
Sending a poor sounding rough mix down the production chain is like showing up for a job interview in shorts and a dirty t-shirt – you only get one chance at a first impression. Rough mixes are used as a reference for the band, producer, or other engineers who may have more gigs to send your way, so making sure your work sounds excellent is time well spent.
Workflow speed is the essence of great production but it can be frustrating when your DAW works against you. This free tutorial tackles five of the worst workflow killing preferences and features in Pro Tools. After all, any time you save can be used to make money elsewhere!
A "stack" is a production term used to describe the process of recording multiple tracks of audio. Stacks can be vocals, guitars, strings, or whatever you need to build harmonies or thickness from a single source. If you're doing a simple double then a duplicate, or second track is easy to make in Pro Tools, but when the talent is creating multiple parts on the fly, such as complex background vocal parts, it can be easier to import a proven template.
When recording a live band and using a click track, using the grid for edits can be a benefit or a nightmare. It all depends on how tightly the song conforms to the click. The best drummers use a click track as a suggestion rather than the gospel and artfully lay the pocket (timing) of the groove ahead and behind the beat in different sections to make the song breathe. This is where editing off the grid is the best way to work because the players are determining where the pocket sits on the grid, and not the click.
Vocal sibilance can bring a frown to any engineer's face, and although it's a common challenge in the production process, it doesn't need to ruin your day. By using repeatable techniques and simple tools, you can conquer the "S" (and "T") and keep them from derailing the most essential part of any song – the vocal.
By using two simple, and free plug-ins – namely Soundways' RIN-M and Snapshot, you can quickly recall your signal flow for future use and lay a trail of breadcrumbs back to you as the work progresses and so improve your productivity.
In this free video tutorial you'll see how using Pro Tools Preferences, Grid settings, Zoom Toggle, and the Smart Tool can help you build editing speed, even while the band is listening to a playback of a track. While all these separate features are perfect tools for increasing your session workflow, using them together will increase your speed while maintaining the quality of your clip transitions.
Grouping instruments in Pro Tools brings along a great deal of control and functional commonality. But when recording, sometimes all you need is to recall a selection of tracks without grouping faders, mutes, and other functions. In this free video tutorial, we will show you how to quickly jump between groups of unrelated tracks and put them into Record Ready, Solo, Input, or Mute when tracking and overdubbing.
This free video tutorial shows how you can customize, and keep a record of your tempos for each take and playlist in your Pro Tools session. This not only gives you a handy way to keep your BPMs organized, it locks each click track to a take for tracking fixes and overdubs.
When tracking a band in the studio, the speed of your Pro Tools workflow will largely determine the amount of work you'll get done. Time is money! This tip (Mac only) significantly shortens the time between the end of tracking one song and the start of another. Not only will it make you faster when jumping to new songs, as a bonus, it also organizes your session folders in the best way possible.
Sound Credit, created by Soundways in Memphis, TN provides an affordable digital home for project credits, album art, and liner notes. Capture your credits via free-standing or DAW plug-in software where credits are created then stored in the DDEX RIN standard open format. Once you've logged your credits, then upload them to the Sound Credit Portal where you can freely edit and distribute them worldwide.
The Result6 studio monitor is the result of many years of research and development and has culminated in the first product from PMC that sits in a surprisingly affordable price range. Simple in design yet not lacking high tech innovation, the Result6 features a 6.5" woofer powered by a 100W amp, and a 27mm, soft-dome tweeter powered by a 65W amp. Surrounding the twetter are D-Fins which widen the listening sweet spot and reduce any negative edge effects from the sides of the cabinet.
In this video review, Pro Tools Expert team member Kevin Becka puts the Wavesfactory SPECTRE plug-in through its paces. This unique processor introduces sophisticated harmonic content to your tracks ranging from chocolatey tones to outright bit-crushing anarchy.