If you had 30 weeks to get to know a studio, what would you want to focus on learning?

Get that song on tape! Errr... disk?
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If you had 30 weeks to get to know a studio, what would you want to focus on learning?

Post by mbene085 » Mon Oct 15, 2018 4:56 am

So, after years of wanting to, I've finally enrolled in an audio engineering program. It's 30 weeks, all in-studio and hands-on in sessions of 1-6 people. The studio is an established but relatively low-profile one. They've got three control rooms, but only two proper boards. One is an SSL XL and the other is a 24-channel Audient. They've got a decent collection of nice pres from neve and API and the like, they've got an 1178 and various less-famous analog compressors, etc.

They're very laid-back about students booking extra studio time when it's available, so I've got 6 months to get everything I can get out of it. I've already worked my way into an 11-hour session for a rock band as an assistant, but when paid sessions aren't running I've also got plenty of opportunity for working on stuff solo.

As for my background, I've been messing around with home recording setups in one form or another for about 14 years. I've done a fair bit of reading on the subject over the years, but wanted to take things further than I was getting on my own.

So, if you were in my place, what gear/concepts/exercises/experiences would you try to explore and why?

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Re: If you had 30 weeks to get to know a studio, what would you want to focus on learning?

Post by marqueemoon » Mon Oct 15, 2018 5:13 am

I’d focus on learning the sonic characteristics of the space, the mic collection, and any unique hardware gear the place has. I’d also learn what they do for maintenance.

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Re: If you had 30 weeks to get to know a studio, what would you want to focus on learning?

Post by jesterpunk68 » Thu Oct 18, 2018 8:37 pm

I know people may hate him because he can be a major asshole but I would take some advice from Steve Albini

https://www.soundonsound.com/people/steve-albini#para6

https://www.psneurope.com/studio/steve- ... -engineers


And get to know how the rooms sound and what room is best for what instrument or type of music.

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Re: If you had 30 weeks to get to know a studio, what would you want to focus on learning?

Post by jamietay » Thu Oct 18, 2018 10:32 pm

tape op

its a great magazine, and i bet if you called larry crane at jackpot studios he would actually talk to you, cause hes so sweet!!!
can i scream?

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Re: If you had 30 weeks to get to know a studio, what would you want to focus on learning?

Post by Larry Mal » Fri Oct 19, 2018 4:47 am

I have an BA in Audio Engineering, where are you studying?

Anyway, one of the first things they made us do in our studio (this was before the big SSL board came in) was to physically map out every single bit of signal flow in the room. Like, you can't get the Neuman TLM 103 on channel 43's send returning from the Drawmer and into the headphone mix from whatever aux track you are using? Why not?

Sure, it's excruciating to do that, but so is sitting there while all the talent is wondering why the singer can't hear any reverb in her headphone mix and she doesn't like to perform without that so they are all just sitting there watching you hit buttons to no effect.

So I would say signal flow.

Edit: I had originally typed "MBA" but I don't have that... I have a Bachelor's degree in audio production, not a Master's in Business Administration in Audio Production, which doesn't even make sense.
Last edited by Larry Mal on Sun Oct 21, 2018 6:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: If you had 30 weeks to get to know a studio, what would you want to focus on learning?

Post by øøøøøøø » Sun Oct 21, 2018 5:32 am

Are there any truly great and experienced veteran engineers who regularly run sessions there? Folks who when you hear their recordings, you really think they sound amazing, and several levels above your own?

If so, spend as much time observing those people as you possibly can, and assisting them if possible. Watch which mics they choose on which sources, and where they position them.

Watch how they handle problems that arise... how they troubleshoot noises and other issues quickly. If you don't understand what they've done or how they've gotten there, ask questions at a calm moment.

If they execute a task on the SSL and you don't understand its function, ask! If they take down the RE-20 on the bass amp and replace it with a 47 FET, listen for the difference and see if what you hear is an obvious improvement. Whether you can hear it yet or not, ask why they made that choice (at an appropriate time, of course). If they flip phase between a mic and DI and then flip it back, notice how the sound changes, and their reaction to same. If you can't hear the difference, see if you can get JUST those two tracks and spend some time after hours experimenting. That kind of thing.

Signal flow, routing, the patchbay(s) in these specific rooms, etc... study all of this on your own time AWAY from the studio, using whatever documentation you can get your hands on (download the manuals for both consoles, for instance). This is to prepare you in part to know what to watch for when you're in the presence of a great engineer.

When you're actually there in the room with sessions happening, try to grok the real-time stuff, and to get a feel for the pace. Let that moment reveal how you don't know as much as you thought you knew from studying the above documentation.

And if there ARE no good, experienced engineers making great-sounding recordings there... perhaps find a studio where there ARE, see if you can intern for course credit, and focus the bulk of your attention there.

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Re: If you had 30 weeks to get to know a studio, what would you want to focus on learning?

Post by mbene085 » Thu Oct 25, 2018 5:26 am

All extremely valuable input, thanks everyone.

øøøøøøø 's comments in particular hit home about seeing if any truly great and experienced veteran engineers arethere.

There aren't.

I'm actually 8 weeks into the 30 weeks, and am still waiting to learn something. The entire level of the course has been...disappointing. We already had "guitar week," and our sessions included a guest lecture from a veteran/award winning guitarist...who spent most of the session explaining the anatomy of different kinds of guitars, and not how to actually record them. Then a session where our instructor mic'd him up and recorded a song...without troubleshooting mic position or going into how to optimize it. Then, a lab where we just worked with other students to mic a guitar at 4 different points, getting marks for having done it....not getting any feedback on how we could have done it better.

Then this week was Drum Week. Same format. Accomplished player...who spent 2 hours explaining what a skin was, what a hoop was, and how a drum kit is set up. Then a session where our instructor mic'd him and recorded a hideous-sounding cover of a Duran Duran song (the playing was ace...but we spent no time moving mics, troubleshooting phase issues, or anything). Then a lab where we mic other students to "see how it sounds" in different spots without any professional feedback being given...aka, the things I have done in my home recording experience for years.

There was one paid session I sat in on a couple weeks ago, which was drum tracking...the engineer was an instructor who graduated from the program 3 years ago, and after 4.5 hours of setup and levels...the drums just still didn't sound good. Demo quality, at best.

So it feels like a bit of a false economy, or the blind leading the blind. The level of the course seems to be geared to the aptitude of some of my classmates....that is, people who want to record things but don't seem to have ever googled "recording studio." Never heard of XLRs. Never heard of compressors. Never heard of dynamic mics, or condensers. People who had to go over what "record ready" means to a track in terms of monitoring during playback and recording. Only in week 8 have "we" learned the incredible phenomenon of increased distance from a source increasing the room sound. And then there was the guy who, when the class was asked if they were familiar with Ella Fitzgerald, put up his hand and asked, "Yo, what's his name? Elephant Gerald?"

I've been doing home recording for about 12 years...so none of this is useful to me. From the program description, I thought we'd be doing things hands-on and getting specific feedback on things like mic placement and mixes. It's kind of a glorified Pro Tools 101, which is not what I needed, and not what they billed themselves as.

I'm thinking of leaving the program and seeking more...useful experiences.

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Re: If you had 30 weeks to get to know a studio, what would you want to focus on learning?

Post by øøøøøøø » Thu Oct 25, 2018 6:41 am

I'm sorry to hear that. I think you might be onto something, if you can manage to go another direction and at least get a partial refund.

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Re: If you had 30 weeks to get to know a studio, what would you want to focus on learning?

Post by Larry Mal » Thu Oct 25, 2018 6:53 am

Where are you studying? Is it that place in Florida, by any chance?

When you get done with it, what degree will you have? I might be biased here, but if you end up with anything other than a Bachelor's out of it I would be very skeptical of the program and the degree, and question the usefulness.

I am in a position to tell you that a BA in Audio Production does not guarantee one a job in the audio field, frankly, it's a collapsing field and harder to get into than ever before. But a Bachelor's degree is always useful and learning is learning. But if you aren't getting that, then I have to be skeptical of what you are doing here- sorry to say that.
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Re: If you had 30 weeks to get to know a studio, what would you want to focus on learning?

Post by mbene085 » Thu Oct 25, 2018 4:08 pm

Larry Mal wrote:
Thu Oct 25, 2018 6:53 am
Where are you studying? Is it that place in Florida, by any chance?

When you get done with it, what degree will you have? I might be biased here, but if you end up with anything other than a Bachelor's out of it I would be very skeptical of the program and the degree, and question the usefulness.

I am in a position to tell you that a BA in Audio Production does not guarantee one a job in the audio field, frankly, it's a collapsing field and harder to get into than ever before. But a Bachelor's degree is always useful and learning is learning. But if you aren't getting that, then I have to be skeptical of what you are doing here- sorry to say that.
Nope, it's a college-level diploma here in Canada (where "college" means not-university).

It wasn't the piece of paper I was looking for so much as hands-on direction from people who were allegedly experts in the field.

No need to be sorry, Larry. it was comments like yours that helped me realize that I should be questioning the credentials of the people teaching me.
øøøøøøø wrote:
Thu Oct 25, 2018 6:41 am
I'm sorry to hear that. I think you might be onto something, if you can manage to go another direction and at least get a partial refund.
Oh yeah, that won't be an issue.

I think I was hoping for it to be something that it isn't. It seems that in 30 weeks, they're going to be catching the class up...partway...to where I have taught myself through home recording and DIY learning online. I think I'll just take that time and energy and apply it to learning these things on my own, and to finding higher-yield experiences with people in the field.

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Re: If you had 30 weeks to get to know a studio, what would you want to focus on learning?

Post by Larry Mal » Thu Oct 25, 2018 8:46 pm

That sucks. Sorry to hear that, brother.

I loved my experience with my degree. I did work with a lot of strong professionals, who drew upon a wealth of experience to teach me stuff.

And what they taught me wasn't anything other than concepts. It wasn't some Pro Tools factory or anything. You might take a class in composition for video using MIDI and that professor taught using Digital Performer. And so on. The idea was not to teach you how to use tools but instead how to use concepts and experience-like, you can use one DAW, you can use any. You can use one effects rack, you can use any other. You can use one board, you can use the other. Any so called "deficiencies" with any of that hardware could be overcome by yourself.

Granted, there was a lot of hardware learning built into the stuff, but no one put it forth as "this is what you should use". For instance, we had Earthworks out, they were happy to show off their piano mic'ing system and maybe get some customers out of it, but you were expected to have an opinion about what you heard and justify it on the basis of how that shit sounded, and how you would use it, based on what you had seen. That sort of thing would happen infrequently.

The common factor was you. I was taught techniques that are fading now, but again, they weren't really set out in a rigid way. They would send us out into the field regularly- and we were responsible for finding our own talent. We had to beg clubs to let us record the shows, find musicians playing and ask them to let us record the stuff. The university wasn't involved in that.

You might use a Blumlein pair for a recording, you might use a Decca tree, that was up to you. You had been shown the theory behind it all and then you were sent out to get that shit done using what you had been taught. No professor told you what was best because no professor was there. You just had to apply the theory, do it, show it, and justify it.

You'd get picked apart... I remember once I recorded an early music ensemble I had found, these guys were great. An oboe d'amore, which I had never heard of, a harpsichord player, a fucking Theorbo! Look that up. I had heard about those but had no idea that I would ever hear one let alone record one. These guys were great. Still, I brought in a recording where I had mixed in the ambient spaced mics because I wanted to really show off the hall sound, and because I had brought them out and shit... I was sitting there like an asshole while the professors talked about how it was drowning in ambience, the musicians sounded like they were in the next building, what the fuck was up with the phase issues, and so on.

The idea was that this was how it would work in a studio you were running. You had the talent sitting there. You had to make a great recording based on your skills and ideas. There was no book that would tell you how to do that and no one else knew any better than you. You had to sink or swim depending on yourself.

It was a blast. I think you were looking for something like that. Sorry you didn't find it.
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Re: If you had 30 weeks to get to know a studio, what would you want to focus on learning?

Post by mbene085 » Mon Oct 29, 2018 5:56 am

Larry Mal wrote:
Thu Oct 25, 2018 8:46 pm
Oh, that's totally the type of thing I'd have loved. I've been doing home recording for a good while and was hoping to get the kind of real-time feedback from experienced pros that I couldn't get working alone at home.

We had a week on EQ, for example, where they spent all of their time teaching what a peaking vs shelf vs filter was...with which I was intimately familiar. Our lab assignment was to go into a designated full band recording (with a DI'd piezo acoustic guitar...*shudder*) and apply EQ to 5 of the tracks. When it came time to mark our labs, the instructor went through and assignment marks for whether or not you had, in fact, applied EQ to each of those tracks. Some students just boosted 4 bands and ended up with essentially a 5dB gain boost with only a slight curve to the actual EQ. Meanwhile, I was very specific - "I pulled out a little 2.4kHz here because it seemed to take care of this irksome ringing to the attack", "I chose not to high-pass the kick here because the non-phase-linearity of this EQ was actually cutting my headroom by 2.1dB without any appreciable tonal improvement when I took down everything below 60 Hz."

My response from my instructor was, "Oh, I've never seen that actually happen where you peak higher after applying a filter" without any feedback on the musicality of what I had done.

And, ultimately, that was the only thing that I really hoped to get from the course. Tips on how to better troubleshoot and manage phase issues that I currently can. Feedback on mistakes I might be making in my approach to mixing, EQing, managing dynamics, and so on. But the level of the class was more geared toward getting people who are currently technologically illiterate to be capable of taking a mic, connecting it to gear, and obtaining a recording.

I mean, our 3 hour guest lecture during "Guitar Week" was basically a show-and-tell of a bunch of guitars, explaining to students what a neck was, a soundboard, magnetic pickups vs piezos, and so on. And when there came time for questions and I asked, "What's your favourite technique for stereo recording of an acoustic guitar?" I got a reply of, "Oh, geez...well, I like AKG 414s."

No suggestion of AB/XY/MS. No distances or positions relative to the guitar. No comment on room type. Just a suggestion to use 414s.

So yeah. That was pretty much when I realized that I wasn't going to be getting the type of insight and feedback I was looking for.

Not to beat a dead horse, but...after listening to some reference recordings on the 3 pairs of monitors in the studio...I asked the head engineer, "So...which of these monitors do you find the most honest? Because I think I'm hearing some hyped frequencies that would be problematic," and he said "Oh yeah, the only monitors in this studio that I would trust at all are the HS7s."

Now, HS7s are somewhat harsh, fatiguing monitors that I've used a fair bit and personally find are good as a secondary reference pair but too fatiguing to rely on for long sessions. I was shocked to find that they didn't have anything better than monitors I've shopped for myself on a home studio budget.

They were also in the secondary room. The main control room had these really boomy, scooped-sounding custom monitors that had this obvious high-mid character that they washed over everything.

So. Yeah. Not the critical listening environment I'd have hoped for. Onward and upward, I suppose! Fortunately I only paid for one semester of tuition, and will be getting the majority of it back.

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Re: If you had 30 weeks to get to know a studio, what would you want to focus on learning?

Post by Larry Mal » Mon Oct 29, 2018 4:11 pm

Sounds like you were simply at a further along place than what the program was designed for. Although I would have to question some of that learning entirely or wonder if it can't just be gotten from a book or a video and then the class would start further ahead and save everyone money.

I feel like my skills are fading and I hope that I can get a nice house with a nice area for a little studio. Maybe it'll all come back to me then.

As far as stereo recording techniques, I've been kind of re-exploring that a little bit. I got a Rode Nt-4 again recently, I always like those microphones. They sound pretty good and are certainly a great and easy way to dial in some quick X/Y.

I'm not having much luck actually using it on my guitars in the apartment, though. That's OK- I expected that, it's just not a good enough sounding environment to really capture the sound at any difference.

When I look at Gibson acoustics that I seem to end up buying, I always stumble across these guys who get a great sound with a couple of spaced Neumann microphones. The guy is a good player and that, combined with the great guitars and world class microphones, make for a great video.

I want a nice ribbon microphone to do some mid-side stuff at home someday. Not sure if it'll really work well here, the kids will get at any microphones I put up if they are here so having a fragile ribbon up seems unwise. One day, though.
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Re: If you had 30 weeks to get to know a studio, what would you want to focus on learning?

Post by mbene085 » Mon Oct 29, 2018 4:24 pm

Yeah, the fellowship of acoustics get some great recordings.

I actually picked up a used matched pair of KM-140's (the 'big brother' to the 184) that I got specifically for recording acoustic guitar. I then promptly embarked on a seminomadic 2-year journey through 3 different homes in 2 cities and haven't yet had an acoustic environment nice enough to do anything proper with them (or rather, they're detailed enough that they expose the nasty-sounding rooms I've tried them in thus far).

I've got a really usable space, finally, to set up my home studio. I'll have to literally build it from the ground up, since it's an unfinished space, but the potential is there to design something acoustically favorable.

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Re: If you had 30 weeks to get to know a studio, what would you want to focus on learning?

Post by Larry Mal » Mon Oct 29, 2018 4:37 pm

Keep us posted as you progress, I don't know what I'll end up with, likely a corner of a basement or such. But I'll be interested in seeing what you come up with.

I'd like some Neumanns, of course. No room in the budget yet.
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