Free Ableton Live Clinic

CRAS Hosts Free Ableton Live Clinic with Lev Lewis

ableton freelance educator lev lewis at cras

Mr. Lev Lewis is one of the few Ableton freelance educators in the state of Arizona. Lev gave a bit of an introduction those those unfamiliar with the Ableton Live software, and explained that it was DAW much like Logic Pro or Pro Tools, although more focused on use in live productions. He went on to explain that because of this, Ableton has a much more on-the-fly approach to audio editing. This allows for more flexibility between adjusting sounds and parameters of the software. He began showing off the basic aspects and layout of the program, displaying the MIDI map and automation capabilities, briefly showing off the ability to make drum beats and describing how the program can manipulate the map to allow a user to write entire songs in a single pass of a drum loop.

ableton push trigger pad

He then moved on to show off the Push trigger pad, using it to manipulate the tones through different scales, explaining that the software comes with a large and expansive library of tones.

Before delving into the deeper workings of the program, Mr. Lewis began showing off the program’s “DJ Mode,” displaying how users have the ability to program their pads/controllers to control a variety of program features. This includes such features as adding/manipulating delays, reverbs, cuts, and fades.

Lev continued showing off some of his own personal hard-wired controls to manipulate a pre-prepared songs, describing how Ableton is very friendly with most available MIDI controllers. He also displayed how Ableton has the ability to snap MIDI sequences into any specific key or scale, describing how he uses this ability in live shows with a metal band (Emerald Isle) to create powerful, unique sounds on the fly. He also mentioned how the Push feature of the software was designed in collaboration with Akai, creators of the MPC, providing a lot of groove and swing functions.

He proceeded to demonstrate these functions, using the swing ability to make a beat sound completely different by changing the frequency of repetition and timing of notes in a sequence. Continuing on with the features of the Push, Mr. Lewis explained how there is a button dedicated to quantization, first showing off the dedicated key, and then showing how to achieve the same end by right-clicking on the MIDI map. He also began showing off a few of the packaged extras, including The Operator (a manipulatable oscillator) and the Glue series bus compressor featured on certain SSL consoles.

He also demonstrated the Simpler, which allows users the ability to chop up waveforms and change the order in which different parts of the waveforms play, or even map them to different buttons/keys on your MIDI controller. He also demonstrated Ableton’s clip automation functions, adding volume and effects to different parts and tracks throughout the playlist. He also demonstrated how Ableton has a capping function that serves to limit the output of a feedback loop, potentially preventing damage to both equipment and personnel.

As the presentation went on, Mr. Lewis began to demonstrate some of the more standard features of Ableton, showing off the aux sends and sampling abilities of the program. He also demonstrated a brand-new feature of the program, Ableton Link, which allows one Ableton user to control other linked Ableton sessions and audio devices, such as cell phones and other devices. He briefly described Ableton’s great iOS remote control integration, mentioning how Ableton partnered with Apple early on to make that possible.

Check out more on our YouTube channel or!

Luca Pretolesi on Electronic Music Mixing

electronic music mixing in logic pro

Luca Pretolesi and Nik Hotchkiss just visited the CRAS Gilbert campus to give a great seminar on electronic music mixing. Luca predominately uses Apple’s Logic Pro software. He has quite a list of achievements, earning numerous credits working with the following artists:

  • Snoop Lion
  • Major Lazer
  • Steve Aoki
  • Bruno Mars
  • Black Boots
  • Congorock
  • Diplo
  • Cypress Hill
  • Duran Duran
  • Savoy
  • Peacetreaty
  • Calvin Harris
  • 2 Chainz
  • Makj
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  • Skrillex
  • Gareth Amery
  • Lil Jon
  • Hot, Hot Mouth
  • Morgan Page
  • Mr. Skeleton
  • DJ Politik
  • Shelco Garcia
  • Teenwolf

Luca works with Studio DMI in Las Vegas. In addition, his team have created “The Alliance”  which is a platform suited for producers, DJs, and audio engineers to learn more about their craft. Memberships to The Alliance include access to live, streaming content such as “fly-on-the-wall” studio sessions, where you can see a behind the scenes look in how engineers make the sounds they make. There is also access to industry relevant tools such as useful session templates for various DAWs, sample and plug-in packs, tips, advice, and so much more.

Luca has been a featured guest on Pensado’s Place, DJ Tech Tools, SoundBetter and Future Music Magazine. SoundBetter is a marketplace designed to hire professional sound engineers, producers and singers such as Luca. Luca’s career began with two years in formal audio education in Milan, Italy. He was very passionate about the early days of electronic music, and was starting to get into production right as sampling was getting very popular.

Their seminar covered virtual tours of the studios they’ve worked in, as well as some of the things that have happened within those walls. He detailed his history, who he’s worked with, and some of his inspirations. Talking about one of his prior seminars, instead of just talking about his job, he said “I want to open a Major Lazer song that I mixed. I want to take you guys here, and really go over single, individual channels, outboard gear and plug-ins, and re-build the mix.”

For our CRAS event, Luca chose to deconstruct his work on Diplo’s remix of Beyonce – Drunk in Love. He demonstrated his workflow, outlining using other songs as references, and the difference between using a mastering reference, or just a mixing reference. For about an hour he went through track-by-track, showing his techniques using EQ, compressors, grouping and stem mixing.

Finally, we opened the floor to a Q&A session, where CRAS students had the opportunity to ask Luca questions that had been burning in their minds.

“I’m blown away by CRAS. This place is unreal. I was uninformed about this amazing school! I want to go back and be your age, be here and do it all over again! This place is amazing. CRAS is next level. The problem is this: sometimes, you find information that can take you to a wrong place. Don’t go crazy just to watch YouTube tutorials all day. Just because they are on YouTube doesn’t mean that it’s proper information. That’s why a school like CRAS, that’s the base. Then, you can do your own work [researching online] after. A lot of people say, ‘oh, just go to YouTube, you’ll find a lot of information.’ Yes, you will find a lot of information, but not necessarily good information. That’s what this school really is about.”

Check out the entire seminar here!

If you want to learn more about Luca and Studio DMI, click here!

CRAS AES Presents the Vinyl Clinic

CRAS AES Presents the Vinyl Clinic

vinyl clinic free class

For our 2nd event of February, the CRAS AES Student Chapter presented the Vinyl Clinic with Gerald Schoenherr, a CRAS instructor who is well known by the students. AES clinics are free events CRAS hosts to provide unique extracurricular education for our students. For this event, Mr. Schoenherr brought his own vinyl record players and record collection to showcase the sound of some classic records to the students.

To start his presentation, Mr. Schoenherr played a vinyl record by Al Jolson. This was an older vinyl from the 1920s era. Al Jolson is a seminal figure in the audio world, being at the forefront of many important historical events including starring in The Jazz Singer, the first movie with recorded sound. 

Mr. Schoenherr explained that Thomas Edison was the first to create a predecessor of the vinyl player – the phonograph. The phonograph was the first foray into audio recording, followed by the gramophone, invented by Emile Berliner in 1887. Around this time, audio recording was not yet considered to be viable for entertainment purposes since the length of the recordings available at the time was incredibly short.

vinyl clinic class

At first, recordings were accomplished on cylinders and were completely acoustically based, compelling the industry to find a new way to record. Companies started to experiment with other materials like shellac, as opposed to vinyl. Also, during the early days of record playing there were different sizes and speed variables for each record. In order to playback older records, Mr. Schoenherr explained that the stylus on the turntable would have to match the record’s specific size and speed.

He then introduced us to the practice of electrical recording for vinyl records. Through electromagnetic induction, recordings are made using the vibration of the needle on the groove of the vinyl. In 1957, the first stereo record was introduced, which uses two separate coils to create two signals for stereo playback. All previous records were solely mono as no physical invention had yet been created to allow for stereo recording.

Mr. Schoenherr then went on to explain the mastering process for records. Mastering is the last step in finishing a recording, where the final tweaks are made to adjust the sound of a record to some the same on various playback devices. A prime example of how this process works is based on waveform theory. Since low frequencies are larger waveforms, they create larger grooves in the record as opposed to higher frequencies and smaller grooves. In order to alleviate this problem and create an easy standard to follow so that groove sizes would not be too large or small, the RIAA Equalization Curve was set as the standard. This established a decibel-to-frequency related curve. Low frequencies are cut before being etched on the record, while higher frequencies are boosted. In order to recall the lows in playback, Mr. Schoenherr explained that a “phono preamp” was required. This preamp re-boosted the low end of the record to the original level of the recording.

Lastly, Mr. Schoenherr covered the topic on everyone’s minds: do vinyl records sound better than CDs? Mr. Schoenherr used Iggy Pop’s “Search and Destroy” to showcase some interesting differences. He explained how during the time of CDs, re-mastering was often done with extremely heavy compression, a side effect of the “loudness wars” of the 1990s. Records were re-mastered for CD playback and fell victim to over-compression. This process limited the dynamic range of the songs and ended up having a very detrimental effect on the sound quality, which we were able to visually see in the waveforms.

At the end of the presentation, Mr. Schoenherr opened up the floor for questions and discussion. After a brief discussion and a few questions were answered, students who brought their own records were allowed to participate and play their records on the turntables that were available. Special thanks to Gerald Schoenherr for taking his time to share his passion and knowledge about the history of vinyl.

Grads Win Two 2016 Grammy Awards


Grads Win Two 2016 Grammy Awards

In Total, 13 Graduates Received Credit forTheir Work on 17 Grammy Winning Categories

Justin Merrill - Grammy 2016

Fred Aldous Talks Audio Careers

Fred Aldous Talks Audio Careers

Fred Aldous, who was recently inducted into the Sports Broadcast Hall of Fame, has been working closely with the Conservatory to help develop our Broadcast Audio Curriculum.

fred aldous audio career broadcast fox nascar

During one of our free AES events, Mr. Aldous spoke to our student body about his experience in the audio industry. From talking about his roots in his hometown of Ogden, Utah, he briefly discussed his childhood desire to become a musician.

“As fortune would have it, once I met real musicians, I knew my career as a musician was over,” Fred says. “Now about the only thing I play is the stereo.”

This passion for music led him to getting into the audio industry as a weekend news mixer. He discussed how he eventually grew tired of exclusively doing music engineering, and how his first experience with broadcast audio was for a skiing event being broadcast by CBS. After Fox started broadcasting football games, Mr. Aldous became one of the first freelance audio mixers for Fox. He went on to discuss his experience working with NASCAR, how he and one of his co-workers had pioneered the broadcast of the events by dedicating time specifically to allow broadcast viewers to hear the sound of the event without the announcers talking over it. This came to be known as a segment called “Crank It Up,” a segment which still continues to be shown to this day.

Fred was instrumental in getting microphones on referees for football games, and getting mics into the bases for broadcasts of baseball games at Fox Sports, allowing people to hear parts of the games that they had never heard before. These new ideas added a whole new level of intimacy to the events that previously had never been experienced. 

As his four decade long career continued, he eventually got involved with CRAS through meeting a seasoned instructor Robert Brock. Brock invited Fred to give a speech about broadcast audio at CRAS, and that led to the development of the broadcast curriculum at the school that launched in 2013.

Among Fred’s lifetime of achievements include his mixing of 16 NFL Super Bowls and numerous Daytona 500 races. There are a number of differences between broadcast audio and music production, mainly relating to the pace of the work and the unforgiving nature of the live show. He hasn’t seen many new faces coming up in the field of broadcasting, and with all of the big name broadcast audio guys coming to their golden years, there is a massive need for new, freshly trained broadcast audio engineering talent. There are numerous career possibilities in broadcast audio, especially when you consider that virtually every town in the United States has at least one radio or television station.

Fred entertained a Q&A session after outlining his history, answering many questions our future broadcast engineers had on their minds. After being asked if mixing for live events is still exciting for him, Mr. Aldous began talking about how much of a rush the entire experience provides. It can become very nerve-wracking if you stop to think about how many people are watching the event, who are guaranteed to hear any mistake you make. Fred also expressed his disappointment with the broadcast industry’s apparent lack of growth in the field of internships, and recommended just going out and getting involved with helping broadcast teams.

Many questions were specifically focused on his work with NASCAR. CRAS and our Mobile Broadcast Unit have been in attendance at many of the NASCAR events held around the Phoenix area. Recently CRAS students were even allowed to mix a live stem of a NASCAR broadcast. Fred briefly touched upon the importance of weather-proofing the microphones and other equipment, and how difficult it is to do so without affecting the sound of the microphones. He discussed several techniques for weather-proofing the microphones. One of the most common ways to weather-proof a microphone is to apply an un-lubricated condom around the microphone, with electrical tape around the base where it connects to the XLR cable. He also discussed the use of delays to counteract the distances between the cameras and microphones and make the audio and video align, similar to setting up and time aligning large PA systems for concerts.

Speaking of the microphones and equipment that he uses in the events, he talked about running a Calrec Apollo desk, which is the largest offered by the manufacturer. Some of his mic choices include the use of Audix D3 microphones for low cameras, DPA 4007s, and Audio Technica 825 STs on the fence in NASCAR broadcasts. On his console, he uses 210 analog inputs, 192 AES inputs, and 56 MADI streams.

Watch more of Fred’s seminar on our YouTube channel here!