WRUR 88.5 Different Radio

Josh Rogosin

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

The Lumineers showed up at the Tiny Desk with family, friends and crew who travel with the tight-knit touring band. One special guest in particular was Lenny, the toddler son of lead singer Wes Schultz. As soon as Bob Boilen met Lenny, Bob searched for every toy he could find on the shelves behind his desk to entertain the restless tyke.

Day in and day out, my ears are filled with the most wonderful sounds. I've recorded and mixed over 600 artists at the Tiny Desk. But when it comes to sound quality, everyone's got an opinion. That's why the second volume of the best-sounding Tiny Desk concerts features selections from some of my favorite YouTube shoutouts.

The second Chris Robinson swaggered through the door, he was cracking jokes. "Life is full of disappointments," he lamented. "I thought the desk would be smaller!"

That didn't deter him or his brother Rich from belting out the hits from The Black Crowes' platinum album, Shake Your Money Maker. It's somehow been 30 years since the singles "Jealous Again" and "Hard To Handle" (their Otis Redding cover) received constant radio play, and the brothers have reunited for the 30th anniversary of that debut album.

As the audio engineer for the Tiny Desk concert series, of course I obsess over how our concerts are experienced — so when I watch someone pull up a session on their smartphone, laptop or tablet, with those tiny and tinny speakers, my heart sinks a little. I'm thrilled people love these concerts as much as we love making them, but they sound so much better when played on a decent sound system, or on headphones.

I've recorded over 500 Tiny Desk concerts and, of course, have countless favorites. But which sound the best? Well here they are, according to me — the guy mixing the performances and bopping his head along just off (and sometimes on) screen.

Sixteen performers from the Broadway production of Come From Away recently climbed out of a chartered bus in front of NPR and crammed behind Bob Boilen's desk. They condensed their nearly two-hour show about the days following 9/11 into a relatively tiny 17 minutes. By the end of the diminutive set, there were more than a few tears shed.

Where were you on Sep. 11, 2001? Anyone who is old enough to remember can probably answer that question. Perhaps that's why the stories told in the Broadway musical Come From Away are so relatable.

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Sting and Shaggy might not be the most likely musical pairing. But one thing is certain, they love playing each other's music. On a bright autumn morning, the legends arrived at the NPR Music office bleary-eyed yet excited to play for the diverse staff of Shaggy and Sting fans. What surprised many of my NPR colleagues is just how well the collaboration works.

Choosing different mics to capture a variety of instruments is an art form. There are countless options at different price points and there are no right answers. EQ adjustments to treble, bass and midrange frequencies can make an inexpensive mic sound good. Mic placement can change the sound dramatically. Whenever I'm not sure how to record an instrument, I move my head around until it sounds nice, then I replace my head with a mic. (Trade secret!) Also, what does the room sound like where you're recording?

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