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- REWIND: An evening with inventor/luthier IAN SCHNELLER at SPECIMEN
- EARS BOOK CLUB reviews "Keith Richards -- "Life"
- And more EARS in the news...
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(The LJETPRO) Allen-Leake
Danny (The URBAN G) Leake

Principal Photography:
(The Eye) Christy

Volume 26, Number 6 • June, 2011

President – Blaise Barton
Vice President – Reid Hyams
Secretary – Bob Vodick
Treasurer – Eric Roth





(773) 904-7470

Following on the heels of our fun playback/listening party at Shure HQ exactly one year ago, EARS is pleased to roll out version-2 for 2011. This time however will be a much more casual affair, with two separate listening stations in a real recording studio. We encourage you to bring a Compact Disc of your finest most proudest audio work to play and share with your comrades. Any genre, whether recorded last Tuesday or 20 years ago, if you wrote, recorded, produced, mixed, mastered, or played on it...... or all of the above, we wanna hear it. After all, this is what we do!

Each listening room will have a sign up sheet and we will play your track in that order. When we make it through the list, we'll play the next track on your CD. Be sure to include several tracks on your disk! Each person will have a brief opportunity to do a "setup" for the track and field any questions or comments. Look forward to hearing ... er ...seeing you there!


We would like to congratulate former EARS Vice President and studio owner Michael Kolar on completion of the new SoundScape Recording studios. We are looking forward to checking out the new digs at this most auspicious 25th anniversary meeting. That's right... on Tuesday June 28th, exactly 25 years ago, the very first EARS meeting was held at GASPAR'S (now Schuba's). EARS minions are busy scheming for an upcoming celebration...meanwhile we get to celebrate in Michael's cool studio. SoundScape just launched their new website at

- Bring a compact audio disc with several tracks of your finest, best-est work.
- There is plenty of street parking on Chicago Avenue. Side streets tend to be permit parking only.
- The meeting is open to non-members and members alike.
- Adult beverages and light food fare provided courtesy of EARS.
- 7 p.m. Start time
If you have considered joining EARS, this is an excellent opportunity. We are working hard to bring more events like this to our members..... and your membership makes it possible. It's easy to join, click the red button below to join online OR you can join at the meeting when you arrive.
Thanks from EARS and hope to see you at SOUNDSCAPE STUDIOS!

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A Word From the Prez...

Greetings EARS members and Fans,

Here's wishing you a long and glorious summer. I hope you get a chance to step out of the studio and go play in the sun for a while. Why is it that summer months seem to fly by faster than any other season? Why are studios so often built like dungeons with no outside light coming in? At this rate, studio engineers one day run the risk of evolving into a very different creature, much like the Morlocks who live underground in H.G. Wells "The Time Machine"..... only with huge ears and a diet of nothing but pizza.

A huge EARS thanks to Ian and Nadine Schneller for opening the doors of Specimen to us for last month's superb meeting. Ian is a great speaker and his inventive spirit and pursuit of perfection is inspiring and contagious. I learned more about truss rods in one evening than anything I thought I knew about guitars.

Looking forward to a fun and casual evening at Mike Kolar's SoundScape Studio and hearing what some of you guys have been working on. Hope to see you there!

Blaise Barton
EARS President


Specimen front doors Ian Schneller
(1) The non-descript door at 1240 N. Homan belies the “magic” within Specimen’s 2nd story, 5000 sq. ft. “factory;” 2) Our host, Master Luthier Ian Schneller, explains the concepts behind his development of some of the most innovative, creative and unusual musical instruments, amps and reproducers ever seen.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011 –

Thirty EARS members showed up to the second floor “factory” of Ian Schneller‘s Specimen Products, a fascinating mix of technology, commerce, and artistry. With acoustic horn enclosures, guitar parts, and other unexplained items suspended from the ceiling, you could imagine that you walked into a workshop for Dr. Seuss’s fanciful creations but make no mistake, these are some of the most creative and great sounding musical products sold anywhere.

What is Specimen anyway? Is it a guitar workshop and custom builder? Could it be custom amplification design and developer? Or, is it a specialty acoustic horn developer? Answer: Specimen is all of these things and more. Specimen does it all and teaches too. All around you are the custom designed and build work tables that double as drafting boards, yards of ageless speaker enclosure materials, and exotic wood and other materials.

Wall O' Guitars Work Bench
(1-2) A look inside of the magical “wonderland” known as Specimen

Our meeting started with a greeting from our illustrious EARS President, Blaise Barton (I know “illustrious” is probably a bit much but I like the way it sounds smiley). He then invited each member to introduce and tell the group a little about themselves. It was an interesting mix of people; we had Interns, Guitar players, Audiophiles, even Mark Rubel (Audio Engineer/Educator/Bass Player extraordinaire) who drove all the way from Champaign, IL to join our little get-together. Blaise then passed the “baton” over to our host.

group at specimen 1 Ian shaping guitar Group at Specimen 2
(1-2) EARS members stand in rapt attention during Ian’s presentation; (3) The Master Luthier demonstrates the precision it takes to develop a unique, quality-sound instrument.

The master of this domain, Ian Schneller, explained how he started fixing friends’ guitars which lead to opening a shop to fix other peoples guitars then building amplifiers, custom guitars, Hi-Fi gear, and the those horn systems. During his presentation, Ian explained what influenced him to develop all the different facets of his company.

Becoming a luthier (instrument builder) was Ian’s earliest ambition as he examined what made the instruments he was trying to adjust so difficult. After examining the process of crafting fine instruments, Ian created his own instruments for a growing cliental. As the client base grew, so did Ian’s dissatisfaction with what they were playing his instruments through.

Mark Rubel and Kerry J. Haps
(center) Mark Rubel, Recording Engineerr/Producer/Educator and Bass Player with Kerry Haps and a former
Rubel student. Rubel, an Eastern Illinois U instructor, drove in from Champaign-Urbana for the meeting.

This began the other part of his business, guitar amplifiers. Ian studied and developed a series of custom amplifiers that matched the level of craftsmanship of his instruments. Working with the best legacy products he could find, Ian produced these amps for anyone who wanted something that the mass amplifier producers just couldn’t match.

This examination of the “sound reinforcement” side of music lead to something that only a visionary like Ian could come up with, the horn speaker systems. These inspired horn systems create a distinctive naturalist sound that uses little power but produces big sound without the harsh overtones that too many systems deliver. These systems range from small tabletop models to six foot high floor standing behemoth’s which are as much a conversation piece and art object as working speaker systems.

But Ian doesn’t stop there; he is developing and building huge rotating “carousels” which would suspend spinning twisting horns each amplifying individual instrument’s creating a moving landscape which would merge the visual and musical experience in a way that has never been done before.

I’m sure all the attendees left with a new sense of wonderment as to what can be accomplished from even the most “radical” of ideas.

group at Specimen 3 Blaise Barton and Danny Christy
(1) EARS members “tour” the Specimen facility; (2) President Blaise Barton welcomes the future of EARS membership, Danny Christy!

EARS would like to thank Ian and his family for letting us “Invade” their space for a few wonderful hours in May.

Bob Vodick
EARS Secretary

Danny Leake
EARS Co-Editor

Specimen contact info:
Ian Schneller
(773) 489-4830

THE LIVE!Live corner logoCORNER

Adventures in Athens: A Travelogue

This month’s Live Corner describes what was involved in putting together a twelve-minute Stevie Wonder performance that was part of the beginning ceremonies for the 2011 Special Olympics in Athens, Greece. It involved moving gear (Stevie’s piano) from the US, the UK (consoles, mike packages, backline), and musicians and crew from the US and the UK.

Consoles, mike packages, Backline were supplied by Canegreen, Ltd of London. They also supplied system and backline techs to service the gear. I worked the FOH while Dwayne Jones, an old SW vet, handled monitors.

I started advancing the gig a month before. There was only going to be half the band so I had to make new input lists, approve consoles, and discuss logistics and mike substitutions with Canegreen. They were supplying Digico SD7s for the FOH and Monitor positions. I used an offline editor to put together a setup for the show and emailed it to them. This was loaded and used to QC and line check the system in London before it was shipped. It was set up and waiting for me when I got to Athens. (One of the joys of going Digital these days)I hand carried the personal microphones I was going to use (B&K 4006, Neumann U87 and KM84s, Shure KMS 141s, Sennheiser 901). This can sometimes make things very interesting when going through security at airports. I was also carrying a full laptop recording rig with hard drives to record the show. (Interface provided with loving care by Sam Rogers of Sweetwater) Some advice: Always wear some recording or touring “swag” when traveling with gear. It helps with the explanation. This time I wore a Monte Carlo Summer Festival shirt that had a 30 big name artists of its back. TSA agent said, “You must have had a great time in Monte Carlo” and waved me on through. However, when I got to Paris for my Athens connection the agent had me take each and every piece out for inspection….he didn’t read English. (Ouch!)

I arrived in Athens 4 hours late. When I got to my hotel (The Hilton) I found a soldier armed with an HK Submachine gun guarding the entrance and I had to go through ANOTHER metal detector to check in. Oh well….but at least I was able to wind down for the next day’s setup.

Sub mAchine gun security A view from the Stage
(1) HK Sub Machine gun security (2) A view from the Stage

The show was in an ancient renovated coliseum in the middle of town. It was also used for the Women’s track meets during the regular Olympics. I found that my “Front of House” mix position was actually a “Side of House” position. The mix was on the side 100 feet up this steep incline. If you tripped and fell you would bounce on at least 50 feet of stone steps before stopping.

Side of house Stone steps to stage view from house
(1) The “side of the House” position; (2) My daily exercise routine: the perilous Stone steps leading to the stage;
(3) A view from the House position – Love that Sun!

I got a three month supply of exercising going from the stage to FOH and back again. I also found the PA was in mono even though I had to send a Stereo mix to TV. (My old Stereo/Mono compatible advertising mixing skills came into good use.)It was very hard putting the gear together as the sun on the stones caused the temperature to get up to 105 degrees in the shade. My special problem was that even with a dark tarp draped over the console it was still too bright to read the displays on the SD7. (Note: One of the Pains of going Digital these days.) If there was a problem, it was almost impossible to troubleshoot in the middle of the day but we got through. I also found out that our new drummer had two bass drums, six toms, and a slew of things that I didn’t even know about and were not on the input list. (“Oh, By The Way….”) We wondered if he was doing a “Inagoddavida” or Mettalica thing but as it turned out he configured all of this stuff as two separate drums sets; the main kit for the Funk and uptempo songs; the smaller kit for the Ballads. You’d be surprised at how brilliantly it worked out. However, our immediate problem was finding microphones and inputs for the extra drums.

Franken Drums

(A Word of Advice: ALWAYS bring spares … especially if you’re going to a place that doesn’t have extras immediately available.) Between Canegreen’s spares and the extra mikes I brought we were covered. Because there was only one half of the band we were able to find the extra inputs even though they ended up in weird places on the console.

We had a full show run-through the first night and, I gotta tell you: the Choreography, Lighting Design, Production, and Video were incredible. Our sequence, which included Vanessa Williams (who is still looking fantastic), was near the end of the show. I had the interesting experience of interfacing with Directors and Producers on the com who didn’t speak English. (Start cues in Greek.)The fun part was the band just sitting there when the lights went up on them. They were waiting for a cue to start….it had already been given but nobody understood Greek. (Pretty funny!)

Showtime! Everything went off without a hitch. We did our 12 minutes, got the Hell off, tore the risers down (I reacquired all of my mikes), and prepared for the long haul back home.

view from house 1 view from house 2 view from house 3 Show in China
(1-2)A View from the House position just prior to show; (3) FOH Showtime!; (4) China

At the end of the day, the looks on the faces of the kids participating made it all worthwhile!

Vanessa Williams and Stevie Wonder
1) Vanessa Williams and Stevie Wonder—doing “That’s What Friends Are For” for the Kids!
It was all worth the effort!!!

I’d like to thank Peter Edmonds and Pete Hughes of Canegreen and Dave Wright of Groundwork Events/SW Productions for helping to pull off a great show for a great Charity.

Danny Leake

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Keith Richards -- LifeThis month we are going to review a book about one of the more interesting Musicians/Characters of the last 40 years: Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. The autobiography is “Keith Richards: Life” with James Fox (Little, Brown, and Company 2010). This book is an interesting view into the mind and life of a Rock Icon. It covers everything from his start in Art school through his meeting Brian Jones and Mick Jagger through “Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll” to now. I expected the usual Rock excess stories but I was really surprised at the Musicologist bend of his thoughts as it applied to his Music. He talked about how he got into it after hearing Chuck Berry which led him to Chess records and the power of Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Buddy Guy, Little Walter and many other Black artists doing Electric Blues and Rhythm & Blues in the late Fifties and early 60s. He paints a vivid picture of the London Music scene in the early Sixties; The battles between “Trad Jazzers” (Traditional/Dixieland Jazz fans) and Modern Jazz aficionados, and especially the differences between the Traditional Blues connoisseurs and lovers of Modern Electric Blues and R&B. An excerpt: “Muddy came onstage with an electric band and was virtually booed off the stage. Muddy plowed through them but it was hostile – and that’s when I realized that people were not really listening to the Music, they just wanted to be part of this wised-up enclave. Muddy and the band were playing great but, for this audience, Blues was only Blues if somebody got up there in a pair of old dungarees and sang about how his old lady left him. None of these blues purists could play anything but their Negroes had to be dressed in overalls and go, Yes’m boss.” Wow!” I guess they liked the music but couldn’t stand the people who made it. (ED Note: Not unlike the owner of a major Blues label here in Chicago)

As a studio professional I found his thoughts on their first recording sessions very interesting. Going into a recording studio was like going to Mecca for them. It was something for which they fought for years. He still has trouble getting his head around the fact that almost anybody can record a song at home and get it on the Internet these days. He talks about meeting John and Paul of the Beatles; their giving them their first hit; how they got into writing tunes for themselves and what that meant to the band; “We were learning about making the album the center of attention—the form of the Music instead of just singles.”….I talked with Paul McCartney about this recently. We changed it: every track was a potential single; there was no filler. And if there was, it was an experiment. We’d use the extended time we had with an album just to make more of a statement. If LPs hadn’t existed, probably the Beatles and ourselves wouldn’t have lasted more than two and a half years.” Funny, we seem to have regressed to the single orientated system again. And, I wonder how long the careers will last now.

Recording-wise, this book goes into some detail about engineers and recording studios. It has vivid descriptions of studios like Regent Sound and Olympia and I love the fact that some the Stones’ first recordings were made on a Grundig 2 track ¼ inch machine at an advertising studio.

This book is written with a great sense of humor; “…they send you off to J. Walter Thompson (Ad agency) and you have an appointment, and by then, in a way you know what’s coming—three or four smarty-pants, with the usual bow ties. Keith, is it? Nice to see you. Show us what you’ve got. Hmmmm…I say, we’ve had a good look at this, Keith, and it does show some promise. By the way, do you make a good cup of tea? I said, Yes, but not for you. I walked off with my portfolio and dumped it in the garbage can when I got downstairs. Basically I wanted an excuse to be thrown out on my own and thrown back on Music.” A rebel from the beginning.

I think this will be a great read for anyone interested in the mindset of a true Rock & Roll Survivor.

(ED Note: BTW – The opinions re: my views of this article are entirely my own and do not represent the views of EARS or its officers!

Danny Leake
EARDRUM Co- Editor


Illinois Warrior SummitA Reminder for our EARS Vets!!! LJet Productions and Orman Music Media Group are in “full-throttle” mode as they prepare for their next Big One: The 4th Annual Welcome Home Celebration for the August 23-25 Illinois Warrior Summit and Midwest Valor Games. Hosted by The Illinois Supporting All Veterans Equally (ISAVE) and partnered by both the Federal and Illinois Departments of Veteran Affairs, State of Illinois, City of Chicago, Chicago Park District and other organizations, the event will kick-off at Chicago’s Soldier Field and will include performances by national acts, as well as local favorites spanning several music genres. Designed as a Thank You and Welcome Home to our troops, the event is open to all U.S. veterans and their families.

Music acts to include: Wayne Baker Brooks Band (and special guests!); The Blues Brothers; Rockie Lynn; Joey Glenn; Color Three (former members of Boston); and Gabriel’s Last Breath (comprised of Marines recently returned from service in Afghanistan & Iraq.)

The Warrior Summit web site is up and running

UGE logoDanny Leake Mixed and Mastered a single at Urban Guerrilla Engineers with Producer Syl Johnson for Vicci Martinez. Vicci is also a contestant on “The Voice”, the NBC-TV vocal contest show featuring Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green.

Danny also Mastered a 14 song CD for Eddie C. And, he Mixed and Mastered a 9 song Hip Hop project for Big O. Both projects being done at Urban Guerrilla Engineers’ Mix/Mastering room.

Magnifying Glass We Want to Know…

What have you been working on lately (and with whom?!) Do you have an idea for an article in an upcoming EARDRUM? Do you have a tech tip? How about an idea for an EARS event? Don’t be shy… contact us:

Fran Allen-Leake, LJet Productons – 312.405.4335 or e-mail

Danny Leake, Urban Guerrilla Engineers –312.310.0475 or e-mail eardrum.editor@ears-

Check out our FACEBOOK page(s)

Look for the New EARS Website!! – COMING SOON!!

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