In this time of COVID, WXNA has been keeping good music on the air with the help of some brave souls who are willing to come into the studio and even more braver souls who are recording brand new shows at home. We wanted to give you a glimpse of what goes into the pre-recording process for WNXA DJs. It’s a brand-new world that we are exploring, and everyone has their own take on it. Read below about what your favorite DJs and shows are doing to keep the X explosive.
Nekos Barnes—The Root, Mondays at 12 Noon-1PM
Doing a remote show wasn’t too difficult since I pre-record my show and edit them before I go to the shack. Now I just use my Audio Technica mic to cut audio and Adobe Audition to edit it all together. I have enjoyed doing it from home because I can clean up all my miscues!
Leslie Hermsdorfer—Just Chill, Sundays 1AM-2AM &Mondays, Midnight-1AM; Sound Decisions, Fridays 1PM-2PM
For many of us DJs, pre-recording in a socially distanced “bunker” is the most responsible thing to do right now.
Besides a selection of tracks, tight edits are desired, and, while the end products produced at home are sometimes not without their flaws, they reflect the haphazard, altered state of existence at this time. As always, each recorded show is all over the musical map and has their unique sounds and flavors.
I believe music is like no other drug on this planet, as the rhythms, melodies, lyrics and textures can invoke every feeling and bring us closer together through a shared love for the art form.
I look forward to when we can all be much closer again, but in the meantime will work towards keeping our original programming alive and well. Thanks again for listening!
Gwill Owen–Salty Candy, Tuesdays at 4PM-5PM
I record with Logic Pro on a Mac. I usually start by creating three empty stereo tracks for the music and two mono tracks for the voiceover. I use a turntable and a CD player; my interface only has two inputs so the way I work is to fly in all the LP songs first; they have the lowest level. Next, I fly in the CD songs and then I move all the songs around until they’re in the order I want them. I usually ride the levels about 3 decibels to try and get smooth transitions from song to song.
Then I plug in the mic and start talking! I get pretty tongue-tied on these things, especially if I’ve had a drink! I try to end with an instrumental song or at least one that has a long jam at the end. That way I can fade out at exactly one hour. Editing the whole thing together is the hard part. I hate the sound of my voice, so I wind up doing those parts over and over. It’s much nicer to be live and not have that option!
I much prefer the live “performance” but at the same time I’m certainly learning new things so that’s always a plus, right?
Matt and Zach—Tapeworms, Tuesdays, 12 Midnight-2am
My buddy Zach and I are the hosts of Tapeworms, an all-cassette show that airs late night on Tuesdays. Since we’re both tucked away in our own houses, the show has kind of taken on a different energy. Instead of being a fully collaborative experience, we’ve begun breaking up the two hours into thirty-minute chunks and we each get two of those. Often, we’ll decide on a loose theme for those chunks and build on that concept through our own lens.
As far as setting for the show, it looks much different than rolling into the station in the dead of night and playing decidedly sleepy tunes ’cause it’s a sleepy time. I’ve been recording early in the morning in a little upstairs nook at my house that overlooks the garden and bird feeders. The lush greenery and sun pouring over the plants has informed the show in a way that would be impossible building only in the dead of night. My dog also is content to sit with me while I dig through, piecing together tapes. I like the idea of these recordings that would typically be in a quiet, controlled environment, like a studio, having life breathed into them by bird song and dogs barking and the occasional car driving by.
Admittedly, there has been a learning curve in pre-recording – placing in callbacks, loading the Spinitron before the show, PSAs on my computer microphone. Some are less than ideal, and I truly miss physically being in the studio and fading the knobs and getting to banter with Zach, but It’s ultimately been a pleasant experience. I guess we’re doing what everyone is doing, just on a different platform.
Celia Gregory—What Moves You, Wednesdays 9AM-10AM
“What Moves You” has gone all digital during quarantine, and it’s forced me to dig further into my own collection of MP3s (or CDs I can pull into my iTunes) and also discover new music. Because I’ve been previously equipped to do artist interviews over the phone and edit clips into individual MP3s in the free software Audacity, I’ve leaned into this method for pre recording all shows since mid-March, and recently adopted the “Zoom” method for creating modified facetime, conducting interviews virtually and ripping the audio right into Audacity for editing.
I own a little Samson GoMic and the Soundflower adaptation to Audacity allows me to record all computer sound—basically a playlist of my show MP3s, my recorded announcements of PSAs and back-selling the previous set of tunes—into a new MP3, which I then edit for sound levels, scrub some “um”s out of there, or bleep some profanity. That’s maybe my favorite part of pre-recording: the world is our oyster, and we can remain FCC-compliant but still air tracks like Minor Threat’s “Out of Step” on a Pissed-themed show. Kudos to everyone doing this for two-hour shows weekly. It’s a commitment! But our listeners deserve it. And, honestly, having this task on my list each week is keeping me sane.
Due to the pandemic, I’ve been pre recording my shows at a farmhouse in the community of Grandview, TN on the Cumberland Plateau since that’s where most of my gear I need is set up. The software and operating system are about 15 years old and still work like a charm. The microphone I’ve been using is an Oktava large-diaphragm condenser. This microphone was gifted to me upon completion of my internship by Bil VornDick (producer of Bela Fleck, Alison Krauss, and others) while studying the recording industry at MTSU.
When I do my show live in the WXNA studio, I almost only play music from vinyl records. For pre recording, I have only been using music from CDs. I have a turntable and could record the audio from vinyl into ProTools but decided not to for a few reasons. The main reason I prefer vinyl is audio quality. Plus, I have a lot of music on CD that I don’t normally get to share with folks due to my self-imposed restriction of vinyl for live DJing in the studio. I still prefer live DJing to pre recording, but pre-recording has some nice advantages too. I don’t have to worry as much about making mistakes while talking because I can re-record and edit. Also, the song transitions can be made exactly how I want them. Finally, I feel like my vocal tone is a lot calmer because I don’t have to worry about getting the timing of everything right, and this is definitely a good thing for my show specifically.
A challenge that I’ve faced is uploading my shows to Dropbox for our Pop Geezer to schedule to play on the radio is that there is no internet at the house where I’m doing this. There is a cell signal strong enough for calls, texts, and doing a lot of internet things on my Android phone, but not strong enough for uploading these files. Wi-Fi has been difficult to get because I’m so far out and everything with a good signal is closed or drops me, but I have managed.
For the past several years, I’ve been buying vinyl records much faster than listening to them. Grandview is my favorite place for listening. I’ve been spending most of my time there since the place I was working shut down due to the pandemic, which has given me a chance to really catch up on my listening. I think this is really going to improve my show and am excited about DJing live again in the future.
Erica Schultz—Soul of the City, Thursdays 4-6PM; Handpicked Dub, Thursdays 8-9PM; Mode.Radio, Fridays 11PM-1AM
During this pandemic, my whole family has been home, working and going to school online. I have my office set up in my bonus room, formerly my daughter’s playroom. So, I’m sharing space with Barbie…
As for pre-recording during the quarantine, I was very used to it because “Mode.Radio” and “Handpicked Dub” are pre-recorded all the time and “Soul of the City” has been pre-recorded during its run. The only difference from pre-COVID to now is that I bought a new computer and moved my recording setup to the “Barbie Office Space.” I guess Girls really can do anything…
Technically, I’m using Audacity to compile the shows together and a simple external computer microphone to do voice overs. “Mode.Radio”/ “HandPicked Dub” are fairly easy because DJs send me their mixes. I place the mixes in Audacity, do the voiceovers, and we’re done. “Soul of the City” is more time consuming because I curate the show entirely. I pick my favorite tracks, research new neo-soul/hip-hop tracks to put in the show, and I constantly go through my email about new local R&B/Hip Hop music sent to me. I mix them using either DJay Pro or Serato DJ Lite to later upload on Audacity.
When you are pre-recording a show like “Soul of the City”, it takes more planning. I’m not a fan of planning because sometimes I just want to freely mix and have fun and sing at the top of my lungs like in the studio. But I feel like it’s my responsibility to the fans and musicians to make the show sound the best it can. Also, I want the listeners to have some sense of normal in the shows they listen to. So I try to keep the music fresh and new, just like I was actually in the studio.