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Artikel Tagged ‘Dave Sperandio’

SoJam 2013 Interview with MICappella

by Florian Städtler, Vocal Blog editor-in-chief. Recorded November 9th 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

960208_707772989247185_316119057_nYou know that moment when you come back from a trip or took a few days off from the daily grindstone? You will be punished by an even fuller desk, inbox etc. But there are moments like that when it’s easier to cope with that backlash. That’s when you can look back on something so wonderful that it lingers on for weeks and months and contributes to your general happiness with life, your friends, your community. Like for example coming back from a great event, where you met good friends, had delicious food and new inspiration in many different ways. You know what I’m talking of as a matter of fact: It’s my coming back from SoJam 2013. And immediately being drowned by all the things you left behind or didn’t manage to finish before you left as well as by the consequences from those unfinished tasks. But then you face all of this with a big smile. Because you know it was worth it.

So I’m not ashamed of posting some of the SoJam 2013 footage with quite a delay, I’m sure, you will enjoy it anyway. Like I enjoyed my first (and certainly not my last) encounter with SoJam professional showcase artists MICappella from Singapore. Have fun with that little “3 Questions, 3 Answers, 1 Song” interview I was able to do on the NC State University Campus.

Florian Städtler is an an a cappella agent, creative director, A&R director and blogger. He loves to stay in touch with great people from all over the world via his “online communication baby”, Vocal Blog via the blog (that’s where you are now!), Facebook group, Facebook fanpage, Twitter and the Acappellazone YouTube channel. Dave Sperandio (founder of SoJam) once introduced him with the phrase “He runs Europe” – and Florian took it as a compliment.

11 People I haven’t met but want to meet at SoJam 2013

by Florian Städtler, founder and editor-in-chief of Vocal Blog

Florian with Kaspers SoJam X passHey, I can’t believe it’s November yet and even more incredible: I’m going to be back at one of the finest events on planet a cappella: SoJam A Cappella Festival 2013 is only a few hours away! And I should rather try to get a few hours of sleep before trying to catch my bus to a train to a plane to another plane to Tom Keyes‘ car to Durham, North Carolina.

During SoJams 2011 and 2012 I was lucky to meet a lot of wonderful people from the US and elsewhere. It would be a very hot potatoe to post a select ten of the many great folks I’ve already met at SoJam or somewhere else in the world. So I’m going to tell you (and actually also the mentioned people, too), who I haven’t (really) met and talked to in person yet but would love to: For a drink and/or a little Vocal Blog video chat on the SoJam campus.

  1. Mallory Zuckerman – because she asked me to come and made all the arrangements. Thank you for addressing me so nicely with “My dear” in every single e-mail ;)
  2. Dave Longo – of course we somehow “met”, but did we ever have time for a proper chat? Hope he won’t be too busy, but it would be great to talk about US and EU a cappella worlds
  3. Jasleen Marie Sperandio – because I’ve seen more beautiful pictures of her than of any other Facebook friends. And she’s the perfect reason to invite oneself to the home of my friends Lena & Dave Sperandio
  4. A Durham hairdresser – because I want to get my first ever US haircut…do I have to be nervous? I tried to get one over here, but was too late and I don’t know if the US Airways flight attendants would do me that favor.
  5. Deborah Rosanwo – because I absolutely want her to join the European Voices Association team. And as we never managed to really talk in the country we live, we will use a trip across the pond to finally talk about the future of European a cappella
  6. Ein Ein, Calin, Juni, Peter, Eugene, YK, because I have neither met Micappella nor seen them live on a stage. As a German I particularly like the name Ein Ein. For us Germans that sounds like a double No.1 :)
  7. Eh440 - because I have to admit that I had not heard of them before seeing them on the SoJam website. Make me less ignorant, Canadians…and say hello to the Vocal Blog readers/viewers
  8. Patrick Hockberger – not only because his name sounds quite familiar for people from German-speaking countries, but I think his bio sound really interesting. So does his workshop title “Business Plan Contest”. Must have this man on the blog.
  9. Revati Murthy – her background, cross-cultural and multi-stylistic, makes me very curious. And I haven’t met anyone from India yet, who I can talk to about vocal music
  10. Dave Bernstein – because we have co-blogged, e-mailed, FB-chatted etc. etc. quite a lot, but: No face-to-face meeting yet. So this is our chance, can’t wait!
  11. YOU!! – Who I haven’t thought of. I’m looking forward to coming to know many more people that I can learn from and who are willing to share their aca-knowledge with the rest of the world. Don’t be shy, let me know you are at SoJam 2013!

Time to hit the hay now – less than five hours until my alarm will tell me: It’s REALLY that extraordinary, unique time in November now. See you in North Carolina!

Florian Städtler is founder of Vocal Blog, co-founder of Acappellazone, vocal music agent and Chairman of the Board of The European Voices Association. And he’s a BIG FAN of and wants to thank all the people who work their a…es off to make this happen. Follow Florian on his worldwide a cappella trips via Twitter, hashtag #VBontour.

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AcaTech Series (2): 5 Reasons Your Music Needs Professional Mastering

by Dave Sperandio, Vocal Mastering

Dave Sperandio photo22-361x290First, let’s clear one thing up: what is mastering, anyway?

To start, mastering is not the same thing as mixing. If you need a quick primer on what mastering is – and isn’t – we covered the basics in Mastering 101. If you’ve already got a basic understanding of audio mastering, read on!



Five Reasons Your Music Needs Professional Mastering

1) You’re too close to the project to be objective.

5 Reasons Vocal Mastering - pic1You’ve spent dozens, possibly hundreds of hours working on your recordings. You may have spent a solid week on the hook of just one song. You are confident that you know every note, quirk, and imperfection of your mixes inside and out – and that’s the problem.

Your audience probably isn’t going to care about the little waver in the tenor part of your lead-off track, or that the cymbals are hard-panned L-R, instead of 75-75. What your listeners will care about is whether or not your music moves them, even if they don’t know why.

After pouring your heart and soul into the project, it’s common to develop “tunnel vision” and to have a difficult time seeing the forest for the sonic “trees”. You might obsess over something that most won’t even hear, while missing something that others will pick up on during their initial listen-through. If you’ve been working hard on your mixes for days, weeks, or months, you may well have hit a wall; your mixes sound very good, but you can’t make them sound any “better”. You’re not even sure if you need to keep trying.

Every listener has the potential to be affected by a different part of a mix, but there are certain aspects of a recording that have the potential to be more impactful or distracting than others. A professional mastering engineer has the ability to assess which elements of a recording should be highlighted or augmented (e.g. the vocal/solo, bass, drums, or depth/width) and which should be “fixed” or have less focus (e.g. sibilance, undefined low end, low energy, or “oomph”), and has both the tools and the ability to skillfully and musically make these adjustments.

Perhaps most importantly, a professional, independent mastering engineer brings an objective, experienced ear to the project, and won’t be influenced by non-musical factors such as egos or decisions made during the mixing process which become so ingrained in an artist or mixer that they can lead to sonic “blind spots”.


2) You can’t hear everything that is happening in your mixes.

5 Reasons Vocal Mastering - pic2More and more frequently, mixers are creating their music outside of the traditional recording studio. “Bedroom” studios are exploding in popularity as technology becomes more accessible and budgets continue to shrink. This allows for a great deal of creativity, and often yields some terrific results. But it can come at a cost.

Unless you’ve designed your home studio from the ground up with an ear towards negating nodes, early reflections, standing waves, and other sonic anomalies, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to accurately hear everything that is happening in your room – and and in your mixes. This is especially true in the lower frequencies, which are extremely powerful and almost impossible to control with the usual acoustic treatments (foam, blankets, fiberglass, diffusors). As a result, at a minimum your mixes may have more or less low-frequency content than you think they do, and this can cause a number of issues both sonic (such as a “boomy” or “muddy” sound) and musical (fundamentals not ideally balanced).

Professional mastering rooms can accurately reproduce frequencies from ~20Hz to 20kHz, and are equipped with specialized and ultra-precise monitoring systems that will accurately play back these frequencies. In these environments a mastering engineer can quickly and reliably make decisions about a mix, knowing exactly how the music will sound in the “real world”.


3) You don’t know how your music will translate on other speakers.

5 Reasons Vocal Mastering - pic3Recording studios typically have monitoring systems which are designed for recording and mixing playback, not for mastering. These systems may sound great (not necessarily a good thing), but they represent just one sonic “picture” of what a mix sounds like. Even with multiple monitoring systems, it’s impossible for a mixer to know how the final mix will sound on every system.

Professional mastering studios typically have multiple monitoring systems built from the ground up using high-quality cabling, powerful and transparent amplifiers, clean and consistent power, precision-built converters and routing matrices, and mastering-specific monitors and subwoofers. This configuration allows the mastering engineer to both know precisely what they are hearing and to first “do no harm” to the audio. Ideally, all music being sent for mass distribution should first pass through one of these systems.

Perhaps equally important is the referencing of mixes on “lo-fi” or “limited-fi” playback systems which more closely represent what most listeners will be using to play music. These systems can include actual worn out, halfway functional speakers, speakers which model a typical car stereo setup, a home theater setup, laptop speakers or other small speakers which physically cannot produce frequencies

If you plan to distribute your music digitally or on the radio, your mixes usually will be stripped of certain frequency content (after they have left your hands) during the compression process. This is literally a “lossy” process, and it’s imperative that you know what your files will sound like post-compression. Using tools designed to emulate this process, a mastering engineer can ensure that what is “lost” is as audibly minimal as possible, that your mixes hold up well to compression and do not end up distorted, tinny, or “small”, and that they stand up well to other music in the marketplace.

Your music should sound as good as it possibly can on ALL systems and in ALL formats, and a professional mastering engineer working in a properly equipped, dedicated mastering facility can help make sure that it does.


4) You haven’t listened to thousands of other similar mixes in the same environment.

5 Reasons Vocal Mastering - pic4Like many things, creating great recordings is a process that is improved with repetition. As a mixer, your hundredth mix is typically going to sound better than your first and after you’ve mixed a thousand songs, you’re likely to look back at that hundredth mix and wonder “What was I thinking?”.

If you’ve mixed a few thousand songs of a similar style, or even just sat and listened to a few thousand similar mixes in the same room using the same monitoring setup, the chances are good that you know exactly what a mix of that style “should” sound like in that environment. But what if you haven’t had the time or opportunity to do this?

A professional mastering engineer hears many mixes of all styles, and has often listened to more mixes – by more mixers – than the average listener will in a lifetime. Some mastering engineers specialize in a certain style of music, others work on a more varied mix. Regardless of the style of music, many of the “hits” that the average listener enjoys have likely come across the desk of a professional mastering engineer.

If there’s a question about how a track of a certain musical style “should” sound, a mastering engineer with a great deal of experience with that style of music likely has a hyper-focused and reliable first-hand reference to compare against. In combination with their ears, equipment, monitoring environment, and objectivity, this perspective is a singularly powerful tool – one you want in your project’s toolbox.


5) Professional mastering can make good mixes great.

5 Reasons Vocal Mastering - pic5All of the technical reasons aside, the ability of a professional mastering engineer to simply make music sound better is perhaps the most important reason to invest in their services. The most successful music is always sent to a professional mastering facility – for the gear, the room, the ears, the experience, and the perspective found there.

The best mixers in the world – the guys and gals whose work you hear on the radio, TV, and in your iPods – demand that their mixes are passed by a professional mastering engineer before being released. They know that if they’ve made a good mix that could be just a bit better, that mastering engineer will be able hear it, and will be singularly equipped to carefully and musically make the adjustments that take the mix from good to great.

And who doesn’t want to be great?


– Dave Sperandio is the owner of Vocal Mastering, based in Durham, NC (USA). Recent projects include releases from Pentatonix, Peter Hollens, ARORA, Street Corner Symphony, Afro Blue, The Exchange, CASA (‘Sing’), and Varsity Vocals (BOCA).

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AcaTech Series (1): Mastering 101 – What is Mastering?

23. September 2013 Keine Kommentare

by Dave Sperandio, Durham NC (USA)

Dave Sperandio photo22-361x290Mastering, as it relates to audio or music, is a term that is often misunderstood or misused. If you do some internet research on the topic, you may hear mastering referred to as many different things, including both “mixing” and “black magic”. However, neither of these descriptions are accurate.

Mastering is a delicate, complex, and artistic process, but it is 1) not at all the same as mixing and 2) not magical in the slightest*. With a little effort, even a complete production novice can gain an understanding of what audio mastering is – and what it is not – and can thus be prepared to make better informed decisions about the use of mastering in music production. Let’s dive in, shall we?

What is mastering?

Mastering has 3 main parts:

1.     Correction of sonic issues

2.     Creative enhancement

3.     Creation of media for distribution

At its core, Mastering is the final stage of audio production. It’s a mix or album’s final opportunity for quality control and corrective measures, as well as the last opportunity for creative input – ideally from an objective, uninvolved ear.

Mastering is the last chance for an artist to make sure a project sounds as good as possible – and sounds good on as many systems as possible – before its release.


How is mastering different from mixing?

Mixing involves taking all of your session or song’s audio, aux sends, and stems and applying compression, equalization, FX, level automation, etc. to each track, then bouncing or printing all of this down to (most often) a stereo file, or mix.

Mastering involves taking each of your mixed files (for instance, 10-12 stereo mixes), correcting (where possible) any sonic issues that are still present after mixing, making any final creative decisions (again, where possible; keep in mind that a mastering engineer is usually dealing with a stereo mix), and assembling the mastered tracks together as a sonically cohesive unit. This can involve noise reduction, equalization, compression, limiting, or other effects (*possibly even some “magic”), but these effects are typically applied on a “macro” level, to the entire mix (or to the middle and/or sides of a mix).

After this, the tracks are sequenced and spaced so that there is a continuity of sound to the project (so it won’t be necessary to adjust the volume or EQ when listening sequentially), and a final “master” is created. This “master” can be one digital file (DDP), multiple digital files (WAVs), or a physical product (CD/DVD). Once complete, the final ”master” is sent to be mass-produced / distributed.


What happens during the mastering process?

A typical mastering project may involve:

Setup – download and import of source material, sample-rate conversion, and labeling.

Auditioning – the source material is listened to, to evaluate and identify areas of focus.

Processing – the source material is processed as needed, and printed in real-time.

Sequencing – the mastered files are put in order and spaced appropriately.         

Media Creation – the mastered files are exported/assembled as WAVs, DDP, or CD.         

Verification – (aka “QC”) the final mastered project is auditioned in real-time by a separate engineer, to verify that no errors exist.    

Distribution – the final, QC’d “master” is uploaded or sent via post to client or distributor, label, and/or replicator.

Archival – the mastered project is backed up, and all settings stored for future recall.

Can my mixing engineer also master my project?

An analogous question: can your family doctor perform a quadruple bypass, or a facelift? Probably, in a pinch! But do you want them to?

Mastering involves a highly specialized skill set and often requires years of learning and well-honed objectivity to “master”. The tools used to master are also extremely specific and usually quite different than those used by a mixing engineer, and the listening environment of a mastering studio must be exactingly accurate and reliable.

Even with the proper tools and environment, it can be difficult for someone intimately close to the project to be objective enough to be able to make the “forest for the trees” decisions at this critical stage. Objectivity is critically important at this stage.

Mastering is probably one of the smallest financial investments you’ll make over the course of your project, but it is also one of the most important and powerful ones, with great potential to help – or to harm. To give your project the best possible chance to achieve it’s full potential, it is recommended that you seek out a dedicated mastering engineer.


What do mixes sound like after mastering?

Professional mastering is often described as the “x-factor” which makes recordings “jump out of the speakers” and/or adds crispness, punch, clarity, and (often) loudness, while also smoothing out rough edges – subtle or dramatic – and making songs within an album flow together.

After your project has been mastered, you may expect to hear any of the following, as is applicable:

        - More definition

        - Added depth, width, or space

        - Cleaner or punchier low-end

        - More open top-end

        - Less “mud”

        - More present lead vocal

        - Increased overall loudness and presence

        - Less obvious distortion

        - Mitigated phasing issues

        - Reduced room noise, hum, or clicks

        - Elevated awesomeness

How should mixes be prepared for mastering?

To maximize your music’s potential for enhancement, you should deliver your mixes as either multiple-mono or stereo-interleaved WAV files, in the highest native resolution possible. Here are a few Dos and Do nots:

Do not overly compress or limit your master fader / stems. Never worry about loudness!

Do not perform any sample rate conversion on your mixes.

Do not add any dithering to your mixes.

Do be sure to leave enough headroom for your mastering engineer to work with (-6dB is a good minimum starting point). Never worry about loudness!

Do make sure your mixes are truly “final” before they are sent to be mastered.

Short version: Just make your music sound as good as possible, fix as many issues as you are able to, and let the mastering engineer take care of fixing the rest and getting the levels competitive (again, a mixer should never worry about loudness).

What kind of guidance should I give the mastering engineer before starting?

Mastering can do a lot of pretty amazing things, and can sometimes absolutely “save” a project. But it’s not the same as mixing, so the feedback you give for mastering should be made with that in mind. Once your 192 audio and effects tracks have been bounced down to 1 stereo file (or one “mix”), there are certain things that mastering can do, and certain things it cannot do. Some guidance on feedback to give your mastering engineer:

Do say things like:

        - Make Song 1 brighter / darker

        - Make the bass louder on song 2

        - Tighten up the bass on song 3

        - Bring out the lead vocal on song 4

        - Leave some dynamics in song 5

        - Try to give song 6 some added depth / width

        - Try to remove the room noise in song 6

        - Just make it awesome!

Don’t say things like:

- Turn down the Guitars in song 1

- Turn up Florian in song 2

- Fix the solo tuning in mm32 on song 3

- Fix the T2 rhythm in mm8 on song 4

If you have questions about what you can and can not ask for, be sure to discuss with your mastering engineer before your mastering date. They will do all they can to address your concerns, even if that means recommending you go back and “fix it in the mix”.

Do I need a physical master (CD/DVD), a digital master (DDP), or just WAV files?

You may need one or all of these formats, depending on your plans for distribution. Please be sure to check with your replicator, label, or aggregator for their exact instructions. Here are some general guidelines to follow:

If you plan to replicate a CD (typically greater than 300 copies), most reputable CD plants will accept an upload of an exact digital copy of the project with all spacing added, called a DDP.

The advantages of sending a DDP are speed (no need to ship a physical CD overnight), cost, and increased reliability.

If you plan to duplicate a CD, (typically fewer than 300 copies – also known as a “short-run”, and essentially the same as you burning a CD in your computer’s CD drive), most CD plants will ask that you upload individual WAV files to their server.

If you require a physical CD to be sent to the plant (the plant should not *require* one, usually; this is a matter a preference for the client), or a reference CD to be sent to you, keep in mind that it will take more time, and there will be a chance for disk damage or shipping snafu.

If you’re releasing digitally, typically your aggregator will require you to submit WAV files.

Mastering a cappella music is especially difficult.The way sustained voices behave under limiting and compression is unique, and requires a highly experienced and delicate touch and a very specific set of tools to deliver maximum clarity and loudness while maintaining dynamics and musicality – without causing added distortion, smearing, or artifacts.

However, the payoff from having your a cappella music professionally mastered by a dedicated mastering engineer can be quite significant. In my next article, I’ll go into more detailabout exactly how your project can benefit from professional mastering.


– Dave Sperandio is the owner of Vocal Mastering, based in Durham, NC (USA). Recent projects include releases from Pentatonix, Peter Hollens, ARORA, Street Corner Symphony, Afro Blue, The Exchange, CASA (‘Sing’), and Varsity Vocals (BOCA).

My X Favourite SoJamX Moments

by Florian Städtler, Vocal Blog

Christopher Diaz, Florian Städtler, TeKay, Aaron Sperber

There are few places where time flies the way as at this particular kind of superjampacked festival events like CASA’s festival flagship SoJam. The tenth (or Xth if you like) edition is over, everybody hugged everybody at least 2-3 times, the last men and women standing (well, more or less) crawled to a Downtown Raleigh Whiskey Bar (Aaron Sperber/The Exchange: “I hate Whiskey – but you must join us!”) and the married ones and other “soft-cxxxs” (idiom introduced by the Australian delegation) went home or to their hotel rooms.

It’s late at night, but I had countless wonderful and/or interesting conversations, which meant there was little time to drink, which means, that my beer consumption would make every German fellow countryman feel ashamed. Well, at least I can still remember that the local dark beer (Bad Penny Jenny…? So much for my remembering details) was very tasty. And two glasses of that “liquid US bread” plus a Raleigh Times Burger is the ideal doping for a late night Vocal Blog Post. Hello vocal music world,  here are my X Favourite SoJamX Moments, hope you’ll enjoy them.

I. Angus Barn – the “SoJamX Appreciation Dinner” took place at a VERY American restaurant. Filet Mignon and a piece of cheesecake that was the equivalent of three European families’ weekly nutritional needs. Spectacular interior design. Surprise guests that made me happy: Aaron Sperber and Christopher Diaz from the up-and-coming “The Exchange“.

II. Scott Hoying – The tallest of five front(wo)men of the States’ latest a cappella wunderkind, Pentatonix. We skyped briefly short after their glorious victory at NBC’s Sing-off and it was nice to meet him in person. Do I have to mention that it was at the “SoJam VIP Luncheon” consisting of massive amount of Southern-style barbecue that made me swear to not eat again before the end of this weekend?

III. Thomas “TeKay” King – Many answers to the unavoidable but continuously asked question “How did you get into this a cappella thing” are rather banal: “Sang in a choir…started it while being in college…actually hated a cappella, but had nothing better to do…” When someone answers that his vocal music career begun in the late 80′s, i.e. the “Dark Ages before Deke Sharon invented music”, you better listen. Especially, when this person picks you up from Raleigh-Durham Airport and drives you right to the next eating event.

FORK on the SoJamX red carpet.

IV. FORK – and I mean all the seven members including their manager Linda, their sound engineer Greg and their lighting wizard Tobias. Kasper and I had a wonderfully tasteless oatmeal at the local Starbucks. And maybe the greatest moment for my self-esteem: I did not order chicken wings or Nachos at 1:30 am at the Sheraton hotel bar. A wise decision as it took the barkeeper 35 minutes to “prepare” them and – according to the Finnish gourmets – they tasted almost excactly but not quite unlike the Starbucks oatmeal.

V: Dave Sperandio – the most wonderful festival founder of all. Although he seduced me with 2.5 tons of Mr. Bojangles fried chicken and wild rice at the staff room. I forgot all dietary resolutions and did my duty in intercultural food and beverage exercises.

VI. The Sunday morning bagels – my US friends will forgive me that I believed – at least until Sunday morning at SoJamX, that American people are completely able to produce real bread. The bagels at North Carolina State University proved me wrong and I apologise for my obvious bias and ignorance. The walnut and honey cream cheese was another calorial detail I don’t want to miss here.

VII. Pentatonix – as one of the three groups of the “SoJamX professional showcase”, Pentatonix exceeded the hyped-up expectations. It is one of those incomprehensible wonders of the media and music industry, that one of the freshest and most innovative vocal groups that America has ever produced is the result of  mainstream reality TV show by NBC. From the a cappella gourmet’s standpoint, Pentatonix is kind of a Rotary Sushi Bar 2.0 of A Cappella.

VIII. Benjamin “Professor” Stevens – the CASA’s educational mastermind’s lecture on “Essential Listening” is cult. And according to US guitarist Mick Goodrick’s bon mot  that “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture”, this treat of a speech is a lecture through music and a masterpiece of subtle rhetoric. We have to bring the “Professor” to Europe somehow. Delicious, better than any 5.000 USD bottle of wine in the Angus Barn’s wine cellar.

IX. My SoJamX Souvenir Shirt – one reason to come to SoJam for the second time is that nowhere would one find a higher percentage of all US a cappella activists and professionals than at in North Carolina’s capital. And also I had to stop people from hugging and harmony by my ridiculous fan behavior, I’m now a proud owner of a unique piece of SoJamX merch, a festival t-shirt covered with the signatures of all those who have gained a total of 1.57 tons of additional weight due to the Southern festival diet, lack of exercise and hectoliters, sorry, gallons of beer, wine, champagne and (OMG – the day after…) gin & tonics.

X. The Monday After  (yet to come) – tomorrow, I will eat healthy, work hard in my mobile office, do a proper Raleigh Vocal Jog and….will forget about all these stupid self-imposed rules as soon as someone offers me a “proper” steak, a “Tower Burger” or some other Southern delicacy. Thank you SoJamX, for giving me four wonderful days and taking care of an a cappella tourist (Yes, I had no actual job this time, only felt strange very briefly). And for a good reason for a proper workout when I’m back in good old Freiburg.

Florian Städtler is founder and editior-in-chief of Vocal Blog, co-founder of Acappellazone and Chairman of the European Voices Association. He rarely drinks gin tonics, but makes exceptions for special occasions like late night business meetings with Scandinavian business partners.