Grad Panel!

Tonight, CRAS is happy to bring back 4 of our graduates who are actively employed in the audio industry to share their stories with current CRAS students. All of these individuals have gone through the program and have risen to success.  The panel includes:
In anticipation for this event, I put together a quick recap from our last stellar CRAS grad panel!
Andrew Monheim - Manley Labs
Eric Rennaker - Bedrock LA
Brian Stubblefield - Jelly Beans Audio
William Anspach - EastWest Studios
In preparation for this panel tonight, I wanted to share some of the outstanding questions and answers that we got on the last Grad panel we did earlier this year.
GradPanel 300x199 Grad Panel!

Grad Panel Recap

Becky Fimbres: Was the internship what you expected?

Eric Rennaker: In my situation, I interned at Westlake. I kind of had this idea in my mind that it was very intimidating because when you’re doing your research, you look for where you want to go, you look through the artists that have worked there, the records that have been made there, and so I was quite intimidated by just the list of amazing artists, and records, and producers, and engineers. It was everything that I expected it to be, just in the way of there being a very high level of work ethic and expectations from you. There’s no half-assing anything, you either give it everything you’ve got or nothing at all. I expected the studio manager to be pretty intimidating, and he was very intimidating person. But you know, you get to know him. It’s kind of one of those things where you’re new to a studio, and you do feel intimidated, but then you realize “OK, these are people who have been in pretty much the same exact position that I have at some point in their life.” You start to build your relationships with them, and start to network with them. That’s really one of the biggest parts about your internship, it’s just getting to know people, making connections with people, because that’s how things actually get done.

Jeremy Hinskton: Mine was really easy actually. 4th Street is a really chill studio, it’s not like Westlake or some of the bigger studios like that, so… It’s really cool, because here [CRAS] they teach you that when you get out, you’re nothing, you know what I mean? You’re just going to make coffee and clean everything. At 4th Street you did make coffee and clean everything, but you got to be a part of sessions. Every session that was there, [you were] setting up mics and doing patching if you got in good with the engineer, whoever was running it. So my experience interning was a lot different than that, it wasn’t intimidating at all. The only thing that was intimidating was not knowing something because you are fresh out of school. But other than that, the people were very chill, it was a very easy work place so it was nice to get a lot of hands on stuff going on there. Except it’s freelance, so you don’t get paid for anything, there’s no runner, so you gotta work, work hard, and work long.

Andrew Wuepper: I would say that the most important thing about when you get out there to intern is to keep an open mind. When you get there, you’re literally nothing, like you’re invisible. But the way I approached it was to always be the best at whatever job I was required to do. When you get there, in your mind you have this goal that you want to be the best possible engineer that you can ever be. But when you get your internship, you have to be the best floor mopper, the best phone answerer…the jobs there aren’t necessarily glamorous, but you have to approach it like you are going to be the best that ever did this. Like, if I was called upon to clean one of the lounges, when I walked in there I would be like “this is going to be the cleanest lounge in the entire city of Los Angeles.” And you do that. Sometimes it can get frustrating because you feel like it’s completely unnoticed, like nobody pats you on the back, nobody says “hey, great job on the lounge.” But it doesn’t go unnoticed. So, to persevere and realize, and keep in the back of your mind, that even though you’re putting in all this time that seems like nobody’s noticing it, somebody is noticing it. And one day, just out of the blue, all of the sudden, someone’s going to be like “Hey, you. You cleaned that lounge six months ago, it was the best lounge I’ve ever seen. Get in here, get on this session, work with this guy.” And you’ll be like, oh shit…you’ll be thrown off by it. But that’s kind of how it works, or that’s how it worked for me. When I got my opportunity, I never in a million years was expecting to wake up and get that opportunity. I was thinking it was going to be a year from then, two years from then. But all of a sudden it just pops up. You never know what’s going to happen.

Everything that you do, every way that you conduct yourself within the studio and the professional environment, you have to be the best that you could possibly be. The best food runner, the best everything, and that’s going to carry over to when you move up the ranks. You become the best assistant, to the best engineer. All those things. There’s a reason why this system has been built this way over decades. It’s because that’s the way that it has always worked. That’s how you find the people that can do it.

Jeremy: That’s also what’s expected of you. Everybody above you already knows because they’ve done it.

Maggie O’Brien: I think that even if you’re not the best, you’ve got to be the most enthusiastic.

Andrew: Yeah, you’ve got to think you’re the best.

Maggie: You’re going to do the shittiest things you can ever think of, but if you’re like “God, this is the best thing that I’ve ever done”, that also shines through. There’s going to be things too, that you’re probably not qualified for, not comfortable doing. But yeah, it’s like, I’m all in, I’m willing to do this. The skill set, absolutely that’s important, but you can’t forget about attitude either.

Andrew: You have to walk into a room acting like I was always taught…I was always taught as I was coming up that if you walk into a control room, act like you are supposed to be in there. You throw people off when you act all uncomfortable. Even if you’re not supposed to be there, you carry yourself like a professional, even if it’s your first day on the job, and people will notice that, and respect that.

Becky Fimbres: I want to piggy-back on something that Andrew said earlier about A-list versus B-list studios. If you work hard and you get into these A-list studios and you mess up that one time, it could be over for you instantly. You have to face that reality. In a smaller one, sometimes maybe you get that extra little “OK, you messed it up. Just don’t do it again,” kind of pat on the shoulder, but we’ll be watching you. You have to take all of these things into consideration when you’re thinking about big studio versus small studio, and again it’s about educated, researched decisions.

Andrew: The research, to even pile on top of that too…The homework never stops, even after you’ve picked your internship. When you get to a studio, do research on who works there on a regular basis. What producers, what artists? When you’re there for a month or two, or three months, four months, you start to see that most studios are a revolving door of the same clients. A lot of clients like to stay close to home. So figure out everything you possibly can about everybody who works there. What temperature they like their coffee, what chinese food restaurant they like to eat at. If they’ve fired people for stupid stuff in the past. Anything you can do to give yourself an advantage. You’re competing with everyone else in the city, and like he said, Los Angeles is a very competitive market. You have lots of kids out there and lots of people all gunning for a small amount of jobs. So whatever you can do to give yourself an advantage over any of them is what you need to do.

Becky: How important is networking?

Eric: Extremely.

Andrew: It’s everything. Resumes don’t mean anything.

Eric: Networking…one of the most interesting things about working in music, one of the interesting things I’ve found out the most is that I get more clients based off of my friendships with them than any other thing. You come to the realization that nobody wants to spend twelve hours in a room with somebody they wouldn’t want to go get a beer with. I wouldn’t want to hire somebody that I don’t want to hang out with. It’s a comfort level, you’ve got to understand. A lot of the artists there, that’s their creativity. They are paying a lot of money to work in a studio and be creative and just let their ideas flow out, and they can’t do that if they don’t like the person they’re working with. Even then, the networking thing…Speaking of LA, LA is an entertainment town. Even if it’s somebody in film. I meet people in parties and it’s like, “Oh I do film, but I have a friend who is a musician. He’s looking at making a record.” Boom. Client. Shoot, sitting in a Starbucks…I got one of my best gigs sitting in a Starbucks. I overheard a conversation from the table next to me and the guy was bitching about these mixes that this other engineer did. All I did was finish my coffee, and I walked up to him while he was still on the phone and I put my business card in front of him. And he called me two weeks later and it was a month [long] gig. So it’s like the weirdest things. Even when you’re out at a bar, you’re still working because you never know who you’re going to run into. You never know who you’re going to meet. Networking is everything.

Jeremy: Like Andrew said, resumes really don’t matter. They don’t really, you know? When you go through this school and everything and get all the certs…There’s a ton of certs that you can get. I did the same thing, I was like “I’m gonna get every one of these certs and I’m gonna be bad-ass.” I did all that. But when you get out there it doesn’t really matter what certs you have. It’s good because it helps you get through these programs and start to learn these programs. When you get out there, no one cares that you have a piece of paper, they want to see what you can do. So it doesn’t really matter. If you can do it, good, keep on it. If you don’t use it, you lose it. I remember I was doing a session with my boss, it was a small thing. You know, I was Tier 5 Pro Tools and everything like that. So I get out there and I’m doing the session, and I wasn’t working on Pro Tools for a long time, like a year and a half. And I’m sitting there doing this, and I’m like “How do you make a marker?” And I had to ask my boss how to make a marker. In Pro Tools. A Grammy winning…I felt like an idiot. But then again, when you don’t use it, you lose it. So keep on it. Don’t think that just because you have these certs and these pieces of paper that you’re ahead of the game, because there’s a bunch of people that are better than you still. Be humble.

Eric: Also adding to that, you never stop educating yourself. Never. If there’s a new program that comes out, you learn it. If there’s a new plug-in, you learn it. If there’s a new pre-amp, different EQ design, whatever. Learn it. It’s just another tool, you know? I keep asking people…does anyone here know Ableton? [three people raise their hands] Ooh, that’s depressing. Yeah, learn it. I can’t tell you how many artists come in with Ableton. It’s ridiculous.

Andrew: And to me, that’s one of the funnest things about this gig. The technology moves so quickly. The tools are remade and better tools are made. You can never stop learning. I work with guys who have been doing this thirty years and they still learn something every day. Every mix I do I learn something that I didn’t know the mix before. Every song you get is a new challenge. It’s a new approach. That’s the best thing about this. You have a regular job, you go and sit in front of a computer and do whatever, you do the same thing every day, but that’s not the case with this gig. It’s always changing. The sound of music is always changing. Who would have thought that EDM would be on Top 40 radio two years ago? Three years from now, what’s music going to sound like? We don’t know. That’s the beauty of it. But you always have to keep yourself sharp with the tools. These days, with how accessible Pro Tools and these programs are, with your laptop and everything, there really isn’t an excuse. Getting back to what he said about staying sharp…you don’t have an excuse to not be sharp. You may intern for 10 hours a day, and you can go home and sleep for five hours, or you can spend three hours on Pro Tools and sleep two hours. Your competition is going to sleep for two hours. So you gotta do the same, or sleep for one hour.

Crowd Question: What’s your internship nightmare story and what did you do to resolve or fix that situation?

Callie Thurman: I didn’t have an internship nightmare, but I had a few runner nightmares. I’m originally from Texas, and when I came here this was the biggest city that I’d ever been in. I’m from west Texas, and then I moved to LA. I’m not used to parking garages, I’m not used to paying for parking, I’m not used to four story malls in the middle of Hollywood, so… I had to go on a run for our ADR stage. They had ordered pizza. It’s in this mall. First of all, it took me forever to figure out how to get into the mall and park and find where the pizza is. Next thing I know, I’m getting the pizza and I don’t remember where I parked. So I have the client’s food, whatever actors were in the studio, and the ADR mixer’s food who is veryparticular about his lunches. And there I am, lost in this four story mall, just no idea of where my car is. So I’m on the brink, I’m already starting to tear up a little bit, freaking out. I think they were trying to call me, people at work thought I had gotten into a wreck. They started to get worried because the clock was ticking. Finally I find my car and then I go to get out of the parking garage, and they go “Alright, that will be $2.50.” No money. And then instant tears. Just crying, “Oh no, I’ve messed this up!” But the poor lady at the parking meter felt sorry for me and let me go. I finally get back and the food’s cold, everybody thought I was in a wreck, I felt terrible. Luckily for me, they were all very nice but you know, it was just the big city and I wasn’t used to it. And I had to learn the hard way to be prepared. Google whatever you need to to figure out where you’re going. The quickest, fastest possible way and remember where you park your car.

Eric: I saw a guy get fired over a piece of cheese. He forgot to get American cheese on a sandwich. The producer opens up the sandwich and said “where my motha-f***in’ cheese at?! Get out of here.” Never saw that guy again. A slice of cheese.

Becky Fimbres: Don’t they call that pre-production? Planning? Horror stories are great, but I want you guys to share your “this is why I do this” moment. Like that one moment in time where you’re like, “You know what, this is worth it all.”

Eric: The best session of my life. Well I got called to assist a session, and the manager told me who it was. Basically I was assisting a session that Quincy Jones was producing. It was Herbie Hancock playing piano, Nathan East playing bass, Vinnie Colaiuta playing drums, and Paul Jackson Jr playing guitar. If you don’t know who any of those musicians are, they are basically the A-list of the A-list session players – of all time. To me that was the most amazing experience of my life. Right from the first note…you know, the engineer, he was 75 years old. He had done Frank Sinatra records. And it was Quincy Jones producing. From the first note it was nothing but perfection. To me, that is what I love seeing. Great musicians, great engineers, great studio, great gear, great music. It can’t get any better.

Jeremy: Yeah, I would definitely agree with her. Seeing your name roll up on TV or something like that. I’ve had a couple of those that was really cool. You take a screenshot or you gotta download it online. I guess probably my favorite moment, man I’ve had a bunch. I’ve worked with a lot of people. It’s crazy, but my favorite one would have to be the 12/12/12 concert that we did in New York last year for Hurricane Sandy. So Roger Waters is out on stage jamming, and I’m finishing up setting up the Rolling Stones, they’re coming up next. I’m getting everything patched up and once I’m done with their drums and everything I have about another 15 or 20 minutes before the stage turns and it’s the Stones. So I’m done, and they’re playing “Brick in the Wall”, you know, we don’t need no, education. And I’m sitting there jamming watching the screen with Roger right behind me. I’m jamming out, playing the air guitar and stuff. Adam Sandler is standing next to me, and he is playing the air drums, and we are both just singing we don’t need no education, banging our heads. That’s surreal. You set up the Stones, Roger Waters is there and you’re jamming with Adam Sandler. I don’t know where to go from there. That’s nuts! I thought Metallica was that, but it wasn’t. That’s nuts, Roger Waters. Never would have thought, like he said, sitting there like you guys. I never would have thought in my whole life that I would be able to tell Paul McCartney “hey, play your bass. I gotta make sure my truck has got it.” I mean, how often do you get to tell Paul McCartney what to do? Then he gave me the set list, and signed it.

Crowd Question: I just had a question about interning and being a new hire. I know the basics of it, like you guys are going through the whole better to be invisible kind of stuff. But from experience, do you know of any interns who had a wow factor? Like, I knew you were going to be good because of this, or I saw this in you that I didn’t see in someone else.

Maggie: That kid that pulled out a notebook was a stud in his interview. Then he knew our entire product line. He did stuff before I had even thought to ask for it. You have to make yourself a commodity. So many people are willing to intern, look at how many people are in this room. You’re all going to be an intern. But what’s going to make you stand out from everybody else? You need to find your niche and capitalize on it. And you need to find out who you are working for and what they are into. That’s the best advice. You have to people watch. Even to play on the invisibility factor, you’ll get curveballs. I worked at a private studio and when the engineer interviewed me, he was like listen, the artist is really artsy. He doesn’t like a lot of people, so when you meet him don’t talk to him. Just be invisible, be a fly on the wall. I pulled up into the driveway, and dude was sitting outside. They guy gives me a huge hug and I’m like I’m not supposed to talk to you! He invites me in for tea in his study and he’s showing me all his artwork and stuff. You just have to be ready for those things. Be quiet, but also pay attention and know when it’s OK to talk to those people. But I’d really say find your niche. If you can find out something that your boss loves and you can do that without them realizing it, or find out what they hate and never do that.

Andrew: That’s what I was going to say. Anticipating people’s needs. I had an assistant one time, and when I came in I asked for some coffee from Starbucks. I dunno, some iced Americano or something. And every day after that when I came in, that coffee was sitting by my Pro Tools rig. I mean, some of the days I didn’t want it, but the fact that he remembered that and it was just there…Just being able to see what people want, what they like, without having to ask them. Just knowing. That’s definitely a wow factor, those are the types of things that get you noticed. When I showed up and I saw the coffee, I was like oh shit! I didn’t ask for this but the fact that someone went out of their way to get it for me. That is the type of thing that makes me go and ask the receptionist who got this for me? Because they are the shit. Especially when you work with engineers who were interns, because they see interns doing things like that, and they think that was something that I would have done as an intern. That makes me notice that intern for sure. Then once you’re on the radar, then I start watching them all the time. So anticipating people’s needs is a good way to get people’s attention as an intern, without being all up in their face. You don’t have to get their attention all flashy like. You get to be behind the scenes and get their attention by anticipating their needs.

 

We are always happy to bring our grads back and learn from them! Tonight should be great!

share save 171 16 Grad Panel!

Celebrate your 4th of July with Free Plugins!

Nothing is better than letting freedom ring through your mixes! Just like outboard gear, you can never have too many audio tools in your gig bag. Here’s a nice compilation of some of the better free plugins that are available for common platforms.

Audio Damage:

Their Rough Ryder compressor gives a great 70s, warm, yet crunchy sound to your mix. It seems to work the best on low frequency instruments, like toms, kick drums and bass guitar.

Rough Ryder

 

Bomb Factory:

Bomb Factory has a series of plugins that we use on a very regular basis here at the Conservatory. I especially like the BF76 plugin, which is a compressor in the style of a UA-1176 vintage limiting amplifier. Their other plugins are pretty useful all around tools.

Bomb Factory Studio Essentials Plugins!

Blue Cat Audio:

Blue Cat has a great series of plugins that work for an array of software on both Mac and PC platforms. There is a set of effects, such as a flanger, phaser and chorus, as well as some well designed EQs and an analyzer.

Blue Cat Plugin Pack!

Big Blue Lounge:

While this isn’t a plugin for use directly in a DAW, it is an incredibly useful tool for calculation of digital data storage, frequency generating, discovering the tempo of a song, and more. This plugin works as a widget and to my knowledge is only available on the Mac platform.

Big Blue Lounge!

Brainworx:

This hi/lo-pass filter works really well. Using their “Anti-Crush” technology, these filters take out high and low frequencies without a lot of the common problems related to aliasing and the Nyquist frequency, giving you a clean, processed signal.

bx_cleansweep

Flux:

They have a wide array of plugins, but since we’re focusing on free stuff let me say – their stereo tools are a great tool to have. Providing individual controls over left and right pan, as well as input gain and a phase inverter, you can even see what’s going with their vector scope display.

Flux Stereo Tools

FXpansion:

You can never have too many compressors. This compressor, modeled after classic analog circuitry provides great processing, emulating the warm sound found on many classic console bus compressors.

DCAM FreeComp

IK Multimedia:

Here are two demo/lite plugins to enhance your creativity. Sampletank provides an amazing collection of triggerable samples. 3 configurable engines can play back up to 16 channels of samples at a time. Amplitube sets fire to your audio by emulating classic amplifier heads and pedals.

Sampletank

Amplitube

Massey:

Taking after the Sylvia Massey reputation for acoustic quality, there is an array of Massey plugins. Some are free, plenty have trial versions to pique your curiosity. Delay, compression, mastering, EQ and more can all be found in here.

Massey Plugins

Native Instruments:

I really like the Native Instruments brand. Their interfaces are top notch, and if you make music in the box, you simply cannot go wrong with their Komplete set of plugins. However, if you haven’t got the money to pay for that bundle, or if you aren’t familiar with their stuff, you should check out the following free options!

Kontakt Sampler

Reaktor Sound Module

Guitar Rig 5 Sound Processor

SPL:

SPL is offering their Free Ranger EQ to give you a taste of the quality and effort they put into all their plugin designs. They strive to match analog quality processing.

SPL Free Ranger

Tune It:

Staying in tune is a must! There are usually a plethora of tuners at any studio, but batteries go bad, disappear, and are expensive, so why not have a free plugin that you can use to constantly keep your artists in tune?

TuneIT!

Tokyo Dawn:

Proximity is a module that allows you to simulate distance and depth of a sound using various psychoacoustic algorithms. Tweaking this just right can give you a great 3D acoustic image and provide depth to your instruments.

Proximity

Valhalla:

I absolutely love echoes and delay, so I like to have a large arsenal of options to choose from. The FreqEcho is an interesting plugin that combines frequency shifting with great reverberating delay to give a great atmospher.

FreqEcho

 

What free plugins do you have in your arsenal? Let us know!

share save 171 16 Celebrate your 4th of July with Free Plugins!

Grad Spotlight and Nashville’s Studio A

There’s been a lot of talk lately about RCA’s Studio A in Nashville being sold! Here’s a quick info update from Ben Folds:

Here’s an update on the status of the possible sale of historic RCA Studio A:

My office just received a phone call from a Brentwood TN-based development firm. Bravo Development is the firm that was planning to purchase the land and the building that houses the studio. Mr. Reynolds informed us that his firm will only buy the property if his engineering and architectural team can figure out a way to feasibly re-develop the property while protecting and preserving the studio for future generations to enjoy. He went on to say that if it’s not feasible for him and his team to do so, he would not move forward on the purchase.

 

All I can say is that this speaks volumes about the character of Mr. Reynolds and demonstrates an appreciation and respect for our city’s great music heritage.

 

Thank you Mr. Reynolds..

 

I look forward to learning more about the studio’s ultimate fate, and will pass along any further information I receive.”

One of our grads, Sorrel Brigman, had the opportunity to work with Ben Folds since she’s graduated from CRAS!


SorrelBrigman Grad Spotlight and Nashvilles Studio A

Graduating from the Conservatory in 2009, Sorrel Brigman has gone on to do great things! After leaving CRAS, she moved out to Nashville, TN, and did a ton of internship work, including working at the famous Blackbird Studios. She got to work along side all sorts of incredible talent, including Steve Marcantonio, who has credits working with artists from Jewel to Vince Gill, Taylor Swift to Carrie Underwood and so many more.

SorrelSteveMarcantonio 255x300 Grad Spotlight and Nashvilles Studio A

Recently, Sorrel made it in the cover story piece for Mix Magazine this month. She has been working at RCA Studio A, also known as Ben’s Studio. Ben of Ben Folds Five now owns the place and has put it to good use. The studio has quite a bit of history, originally being known as RCA Victor Nashville Sound Studios. Built by Chet Atkins, the facility had a ton of major names swing through over the years. Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, and even Dolly Parton, who recorded “Jolene” there.

SorrelBrigmanMixBenFolds Grad Spotlight and Nashvilles Studio A

In 2011, they upgraded the studio console to a classic API 3232. When Ben Folds first moved into the studio, he primarily used it on his own, but in the past 5 years they have been bringing in other clients – Kellie Pickler, Willie Nelson, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood and Alejandro Sans.

I caught up with Sorrel a little bit, and this is what she had to say:

“I’ve been at Ben’s Studio for three years this month. I started as an intern but have been an assistant here for almost 2.5 years. In addition to assistant engineering, I’ve lately also been doing some assistant managing for the studio as well. The room is amazing and the studio manager, Sharon Corbitt-House, brings in some amazing clients. I have had the privilege of working with Ben Folds Five (naturally), Alan Parsons, Kelly Pickler, Willie Nelson, Jerrod Neimann and Elizabeth Cook, just to name a few. It has been quite an amazing ride.

Some of my common intern tasks at both my internships (Ben’s and Blackbird) included session setup and tear down, being a runner (to go get supplies for the studio and meals for clients and staff) and lots of cleaning. It’s not to say that my supervisors were behind me forcing me to clean stuff, but taking care of the studio is a labor of love.

And there are plenty of uncommon tasks as an intern. At my first internship, the owner of the studio loved Dr. Pepper and the ice from Sonic (I mean, who doesn’t, really?) We had a Sonic ice maker at the studio, but the owner did not have one at his house. It was not entirely unusual to take two cups full of Sonic Ice and a cold 6-pack of DP to the owner’s house at night, leave them outside the gate. Only certain interns were trusted with this task because the owner was insistent that the buzzer not be buzzed (and thus disturb his family that was sleeping). I did that run a few times.

Another time as an assistant, I was covering for an assistant friend at a different studio. After the session as we (the intern and I) were tearing down, the client used the bathroom. He flushed the urinal and walked off. We walked by the lobby and heard a gushing sound. The urinal was stuck in flush mode and water was pouring out everywhere. We managed to get the water to stop, but clean up was a challenge. The intern was new and didn’t know where things were stored. I didn’t normally work there, so I didn’t know where things were stored either. The only mop we could find was rusted together (yes, rusted). We ended up cleaning up a small lake of pee water with paper towels and no gloves. It happens.

I have gotten a few album credits. That’s pretty exciting. You can check out my allmusic pages (one under Sorrel LaVigne, one under Sorrel Brigman).”

Sorrel LaVigne’s Credits at AllMusic.com

Sorrel Brigman’s Credits at AllMusic.com

Congratulations on doing an amazing job! I remember having you as a student and I knew you were destined for great things!

share save 171 16 Grad Spotlight and Nashvilles Studio A

Mic Raffle Winners!

Blue Snowball USB Mic 300x244 Mic Raffle Winners!

Microphones are one of the most important parts of the recording signal chain, and are the very first block in audio recording signal flow! Often times the quality of a studio is judged based upon the contents of their mic locker. There is a decent Sennheiser dynamic mic that is included with the laptop recording package that every student who goes through CRAS gets, but we also provide various other opportunities to increase student’s mic collections. From time to time, we do a small condenser mic build, where students purchase a kit that includes all of the individual parts of a condenser mic, and then sit through a clinic to actually solder and build the mics themselves.

CRAS Condenser Mic Build 300x232 Mic Raffle Winners!

We are currently also running the Audio Technica Mic Challenge, in which participating students book and run a recording session where they use only Audio Technica mics. The idea is to demonstrate the versatility of the variety of Audio Technica microphones that the Conservatory has. Last year we had a student, DeCarlos Waller win this contest, and earned himself a brand new Audio Technica AT 4040 large diaphragm condenser microphone! You can read up about that one one of our previous blog articles here.

 Mic Raffle Winners!

We also have a great relationship with Blue Microphones. We’ve had a number of CRAS grads go to work in various areas with Blue Mic, including the production and design teams. Recently our AES team put together a raffle to give away a Bluebird mic to the grand prize winner, with a Blue Snowball USB mic as the runner-up prize.

Bluebird Mic Mic Raffle Winners!

The CRAS AES Bluebird raffle concluded last Thursday at the end of an amazing Synthesizer clinic, hosted by CRAS instructor Scott Murray. Orlando Green-Bush, an 11th cycle CRAS student, won the Bluebird and it was well deserved. Orlando is an older student and is a great role model to the younger generation students. He’s proved his worth and maturity level every time we’ve conversed with him. In addition, he only purchased one ticket for the win! So awesome!

CRAS Raffle Orlando Bush Green Bluebird1 300x179 Mic Raffle Winners!

Orlando Green-Bush, center, surrounded by the CRAS AES team

Mario Perez won the Snowball USB microphone. He was ecstatic over the deal because this is the mic that drew him in to the raffle in the first place. He told me he has multiple uses for it and was very appreciative upon delivery. All smiles and congrats from his class.
CRAS Raffle Mario Perez Snowball1 300x179 Mic Raffle Winners!
Mario Perez, seated just left of center with classmates
The Blue Snowball is a very unique mic – it was one of the first professional quality USB microphones. By providing USB connectivity, users can plug the mic directly into their computer, or even an iPad, and record without having to use any other wiring or conversion devices. Pretty sweet!

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Pro Tools Track Management

CRAS ProTools 300x300 Pro Tools Track Management

CRAS was the first audio recording school to ever certify in the digital audio workstation known as Pro Tools. There are many DAWs out there, and everyone has their favorite, but Pro Tools has been one of the industry standard apps for a long time now. For this reason, we like to focus on training our future audio engineers in all the ways Pro Tools works, and how you can make Pro Tools work for you!

When it comes down to it, Pro Tools is basically a digital multi-track recording program. Throughout audio recording history, having the ability to multi-track has allowed us to increase the quality of our recording projects immensely. While the music we listen to is – for the most part – just a final two track mix (or in some cases a 5.1 surround mix), getting a full band with various instrumentation recorded takes time, patience, and a lot of recording space to get it done right.

Beatles in the Studio listening to tapes 300x186 Pro Tools Track Management

The Beatles typically used a four track recorder in the 60s, when they first started making records. This allowed one track for the vocals, one for the guitar, one for the bass, and one for the drums. Through some audio wizardry, and bouncing tracks together, they were able to layer instruments to get a fuller sound coming out of the speakers for the final product. Over the years audio engineers and technicians have worked on expanding the capabilities that we have by allowing us to have more tracks – in some cases more tracks than you could possibly use! For example, Butch Vig would use anywhere from 16-20 tracks just for vocals when he worked with Garbage, and would have sometimes up to 60-70 tracks for just percussion! That’s crazy!

shirley manson scream 300x165 Pro Tools Track Management

These kinds of crazy high track counts would have been hard to do before the advent of digital workstations. While it was possible to bounce tracks down and sum mixes together, that takes a lot of time and a lot of skill, and in many cases if you don’t get it right the first time you get to start all over from the beginning! Most  2″ tape machines, like the ones we use here at the Conservatory, offer 24 tracks of recording, so to get crazy high track counts, knowing how to use Pro Tools is definitely a great advantage.

In this first video in our series of Pro Tools tutorials, instructor Phil Nichols goes over the importance of Track Grouping. Grouping tracks together makes a lot of operations easier, such as performing fades, volume changes, solo or mute groups, and creating visual distinctions to allow us to easily see what set of instruments we are working with. 

Another great feature of grouping tracks is the ability to show and hide track groups. This allows you to focus on only the tracks that you need to work with. So, if you have a massive session with 60 or more tracks for example, instead of having to scroll back and forth across the screen, you can simply hide all the tracks you aren’t actively working on and save yourself some time and headaches. Not only can you display one group at a time, or hide one group at a time, but through the use of modifier keys – such as Control and Shift – you can show or hide multiple groups as well!

Showing and hiding groups on its own is a pretty neat feature, but the whole idea of hiding unnecessary tracks is so we can maximize the use of space we have available on the screen. Using focus keys, or keyboard quick key alternates, we can change the size of the remaining viewable tracks, but now we are talking about stringing sets of commands together. It is possible to combine these commands into a more simplified package! This is where memory locations can come into a great use. For the most part, memory locations are used to store a particular time in the timeline of the session, but there are other properties that can be stored within these memory presets. As a matter of fact, memory locations don’t even need to store a time location at all!


Finally, this last option is to use what are known as VCA faders in Pro Tools. This feature is only available in Pro Tools HD systems, or Pro Tools Native systems with the complete Production Tool Kit. VCA itself stands for Voltage Controlled Amplifier, and is a throwback to analog consoles. Some consoles that are commonly found in recording studios, such as our SSL 4000 series, also feature this VCA style automation, where you can have one VCA “master” that controls whatever other tracks you would like to have in the group.

This differs from the other, first style of grouping that we talked about. With the standard track group, each member of the group can act as a master, and all the other tracks in the group will move with it together. However, with a VCA master, only the master controls all the members of the group. This allows the operator to easily change one member of the group without affecting all the others.

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The Smell of Fresh Studio

The audio world is ever evolving, and CRAS is no stranger to that idea. Always looking to expand, upgrade and improve, we refuse to be left behind. Among the changes we’ve made expanding to the school, Monday marks a new dawn on the beginning of a new pair of studios.

CRAS SSL Delivery 300x200 The Smell of Fresh Studio

SSL, or Solid State Logic, have been building amazing consoles for decades now and have developed a great reputation in the music industry. There are hundreds of studios throughout the world that use SSL equipment every single day, and we are happy to say we are one of the few educators in the world that teach comprehensive audio recording and production education using SSL consoles. Our flagship Studio A at each campus use SSL 4000+ series consoles, which demonstrate classic analog circuitry and rich, warm sounds.

Tony SSL AWS Control Room 300x169 The Smell of Fresh Studio

We are excited to offer education on two brand new SSL consoles – the SSL AWS series! We have built two brand new control rooms, with two isolation booths and a live studio specifically around these boards. Running two AWS 948 boards, which are connected to two full Pro Tools HDX playback systems, we will be able to give a much higher level education to aspiring audio engineers.

AWS with Gear Rack at CRAS 169x300 The Smell of Fresh Studio

These new facilities will provide more opportunities for students who are wanting to learn the recording arts to practice and hone their skills on a wider variety of gear. This will also allow them to focus on specific areas of the music industry – post production, music production, audio recording, overdubbing, mixing and even mastering! These new rooms are absolutely amazing quality and a fresh facelift to our buildings.

Studio F Gear Rack 169x300 The Smell of Fresh Studio

Each control room will have a 24 in, 24 out capability with full patch bays allowing interconnectivity with numerous bits of outboard gear like Manley compressors, Distressors, Empirical Labs FrEQs and all kinds of other goodies.

Tony at SSL AWS Studio F CRAS 300x169 The Smell of Fresh Studio

We had a visit a couple weeks ago from the SSL Broadcast truck, and that was very interesting to see for a couple reasons. It was great to know that we have the same vision for the direction of the audio industry. They brought out their truck to our Gilbert location, and I was able to take a tour of it and see how it contrasted and compared to our own broadcast audio truck that we recently have been finishing up. It’s great to know that our school is sharing the same vision with such an iconic company as SSL and even better to know that we are able to fill our studios with a ton of their gear!

Check out our build progress time lapse video!

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CRAS Grads Make It!

The most important testament to any education is that it can actually be applied. Our focus here at the Conservatory is to train our students to be the best audio engineers they can be. Our grads get internships into the field of the audio industry of their choice, and there are many to choose from! Whether it’s working in a studio, going on tour with bands as their live sound or Front of House engineer, or even expanding into the field of television and radio broadcasting. We were able to get some input from some of our success stories, and here is what a few of them are up to right now!

James Alire

James Alire CRAS Grad 300x300 CRAS Grads Make It!

Just wrapped on my 6th feature film doing production audio, working both production and post on a handful of projects over the summer. I’m in negotiations for three more features towards the end of the year, and premiering a few films at both Phoenix Comicon and the Jerome Film Festival.

Dakota McBride

Dakota McBride CRAS Grad 300x300 CRAS Grads Make It!

I work as the Monitor Engineer for pop rock artist Neon Trees, as well as working monitors for Nightmare and the Cat and Small Pools. I started pre-production in February, went straight into tour and get my first break in mid July -then it’s off to Europe! Hoping to start doing some more touring after this run.

John Kay

John Kay CRAS Grad 300x300 CRAS Grads Make It!

Currently, I’m on tour playing guitar with Koffin Kats. Finishing up an April 18 to June 8 run at Ink N Iron festival in Long Beach, CA. Then I’ll be home for just under a week before heading to Europe to tour for two months. In between tours I’m producing albums and mixing at my studio near Detroit, MI. LIVING THE DREAM!!!

Cesar Marenco

Cesar Marenco CRAS Grad 300x300 CRAS Grads Make It!

I’m working on getting my Bachelor’s degree at Berklee College of Music in Electronic Production, with a minor in Audio Design for Video Games. I’ve also been working on video games and music on the side.

Skyla Rose Wild Eagle

Skyla Rose CRAS Grad 300x300 CRAS Grads Make It!

I’ve officially been a graduate of C RAS for a month and I have 3 TV credits on Arizona Nights, work at 3 local bars, 2 performing arts centers and am a full time audio tech for AV Concepts where I get to repair gear, build gear, fill orders for big name clients, and A2 on show site! All thanks to CRAS, CRAS AES, and all the amazing teachers and staff at CRAS!

It’s absolutely wonderful to hear these things, and we are proud of all of our students! I can’t wait to see what the future has in store!

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CRAS Mobile Broadcast Recording Truck!

Broadcast Recording Camera 300x200 CRAS Mobile Broadcast Recording Truck!

Today wraps up the first week with our brand new mobile broadcast recording curriculum here at the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences. As part of our new extended curriculum, students will be learning broadcast audio production in addition to the numerous other skills we train in the audio engineering field.

Broadcast Studio E 300x200 CRAS Mobile Broadcast Recording Truck!

Instructors Cory Patterson and Eli Salazar, with the help of CRAS veteran Brock and the cooperation of the legendary Fred Aldous, have pioneered a new path into this exciting field of study that no other school currently offers! Just think about how crazy that is… Every football game, baseball game, MMA or boxing bout, NASCAR, virtually every sporting event – of course we can see these on TV, but we have to be able to hear them to truly enjoy them. I didn’t even realize how much work went on behind the scenes to get the audio ready for production, and it’s all done in real time!

Eli in Studio E Broadcast 300x225 CRAS Mobile Broadcast Recording Truck!

The job of the broadcast audio engineer is incredibly hectic, but rewarding. They have to listen to producer calls, pay attention to all the camera feeds, know where all the mics are set and routed, stay in constant communication with all the staff and make sure everyone can hear everyone else through the comm systems! Students will have to learn all of these skills.

 CRAS Mobile Broadcast Recording Truck!

A huge part of making sure all this works is the broadcast console. We have a set of Studer Vista consoles running the show. In conjunction with that, we were also able to work directly with Studer to help create their own online broadcast curriculum, where students can get certified working on the Vista consoles themselves.

CRAS Studer Vista Broadcast Academy 300x89 CRAS Mobile Broadcast Recording Truck!

This week students learned the basics of the Vista console and signal routing, learned the importance of mic placement and setup, went through the various equipment that allows us to plug into the live broadcast stream and route audio throughout all the necessary channels. All of this happens using both analog and digital equipment. We ran a good amount of copper wire for XLR feeds, but we ran even more fiber optic cable to allow for high bandwidth video and audio transmissions. Through the use of MADI and DANTE digital audio protocols, we can have hundreds of audio feeds flown through just a handful of small cables. That’s just crazy!

Broadcast Rack Gear 169x300 CRAS Mobile Broadcast Recording Truck!

This week was perfect timing for all of this to start because we were also visited by the SSL Mobile Broadcast truck, which has been touring the country and stopped for a visit right here in our Gilbert campus parking lot! It was really interesting to see how they have their truck set up, and look at the similarities that SSL ran with and the differences we ended up with our own broadcast truck.

SSL Mobile Broadcast Truck 300x200 CRAS Mobile Broadcast Recording Truck!

Outside of the Solid State Logic Broadcast Truck

SSL Mobile Broadcast Interior 300x200 CRAS Mobile Broadcast Recording Truck!

CRAS students getting a tour of the SSL Broadcast Truck

SSL Mobile Broadcast Board 300x200 CRAS Mobile Broadcast Recording Truck!

SSL Mobile Console 300x169 CRAS Mobile Broadcast Recording Truck!

The SSL C10 HD Digital Audio Console

Here’s a quote from instructor Eli Salazar regarding this week’s classes:

Cory and I are excited to have finished the first week on the Conservatory’s Broadcast curriculum. All we can say is “Wow”! We both had an absolute blast teaching these new classes.  The feedback from the students has been totally positive and inspiring!  We are both honored and humbled to have been selected for this amazing new program.  It has been a lot of work, but the benefits are already being seen. This is an exciting time for the Conservatory as a whole, and we appreciate all the support.

These last few months have definitely been interesting to see our new program coming together, and be built from the ground up. Stay tuned for more news and events as the rest of our new curriculum comes alive!

Mobile Broadcast Truck Skeleton 225x300 CRAS Mobile Broadcast Recording Truck!

Broadcast Truck Frame

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Broadcast Truck skinned with pop-out functioning

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The Interior of our Mobile Broadcast Unit in action during our last studio manager panel

Broadcast Truck Interior 300x300 CRAS Mobile Broadcast Recording Truck!

Interior of the Mobile Broadcast Unit continued!

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The End of an Era

CRASGilbert 300x200 The End of an Era

In November 2002, the Conservatory first held classes in its then new 10 cycle MRP II program! This was a monumental change from the previous curriculum of 5 cycles at the Tempe campus only. Expanding to 10 cycles, and two campuses, allowed us to provide much more detailed education to our students. The two campuses were mirrored, with four studios and a number of classrooms at each location, including the 6,000 square foot live sound venue.

live sound venue 300x300 The End of an Era

Today adds a new notch to the most recent epoch of CRAS. This is officially the last on-campus day of class for our last group of students in the 10 cycle MRP II audio engineering program! As our latest batch of freshly-tuned audio engineers head out to their respective internships across the country, we can sit and reminisce on all the progress, success and achievements we’ve made over the last decade+.

2013 10 04 300x200 The End of an Era

The 2013-10-04 class brings to a close a long celebrated history at CRAS, and we usher in a new era of audio recording education with the beginning of our new, fully-immersed 12 cycle program. First started with the 2013-10-25 class, we are completely entrenched in the new curriculum which offers new paths and opportunities for aspiring audio engineers. In addition to the overhaul of our classic program, we have added so much new content to the program that I can’t even contain all of my excitement within one single post.

mobile broadcast truck 300x300 The End of an Era

Inside of the new CRAS Mobile Broadcast Unit!

On Monday we will also have new exciting things happening! Our long-awaited Mobile Broadcast Unit will begin its excursion into the CRAS-curriculum, kicking off our brand new broadcast program, which is the first time any school in the nation has offered a broadcast recording curriculum. With co-operation and help from Studer themselves, we have been able to make the Studer Vista online certification program, and be able to offer that to our own students as well! Venturing into this new territory we can truly revolutionize the education we can provide our students.

broadcast recording 300x200 The End of an Era

Think about any NASCAR race you’ve seen on TV, any PGA golf tournament, any basketball game, football game, soccer… the list goes on. Obviously we have to be able to see the program, but think about how important the audio tied to those events are! And now we can thankfully say we know how to do that! Cultivated with the help of the legendary Fred Aldous, our brand new broadcast program will give our students yet another tool in their tech book to use to their advantage.

live sound room 300x225 The End of an Era

We look forward to our new, exciting curriculum and all of the opportunities we can give our new recruits! There are many more things happening that I can’t quite mention yet, but be on the lookout for the future!

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RIP HR Giger

gigerfeat  span 300x140 RIP HR Giger

In February of 1940, Hans Reudi Giger came into existence upon this Earth. Well known for his work creating odd, creepy, sometimes disturbing but always fascinating bio-mechanical art. He truly was a pioneer defining that genre, and his influence has spilled over into all sorts of creative realms. Most commonly associated with the Alien movie franchise, in which he designed the incredibly horrific aliens, he has played major roles in music as well, from numerous album covers to even being commissioned to create Korn frontman Jonathan Davis’ iconic mic stand.

jonathan davis and mic stand by ducksanddemons d5dlnzw 184x300 RIP HR Giger

My first vision of Giger’s art was on the Emerson, Lake and Palmer “Brain Salad Surgery” album. That was quite an interesting choice for them to make. The way Giger fused machines with humans seemed to match the futuristic tone set on the album, which was a blend of classical music and modern rock. Few other artists can evoke such emotion with their work, and numerous bands since have chosen to use Giger’s art for their records as well.

hr giger albums 300x300 RIP HR Giger

While most of the bands who tend to use his masterpieces are of the metal variety, such as Carcass and Celtic Frost, there are plenty of other more mainstream artists that chose his designs as well. Take Debbie Harry’s “Koo Koo” album, which looks like a surreal photo-manipulation of the Blondie frontwoman’s face impaled with spikes. This album cover was featured in Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Album Covers of All Time.

ibanez 300x104 RIP HR Giger

His work has transcended the globe, and in 1998 he was able to create the H.R. Giger Museum in Switzerland. While a lot of his work borders on the nightmarish, a lot of it often highlights the beauty and sexuality of the female form, which when put together creates a uniquely intriguing but terrifying feeling for some. His most recently and unfortunately last work in the music world was for Triptykon’s 2010 release “Eparistera Daimones”.

Giger Bar 300x168 RIP HR Giger

Giger unfortunately passed away today at the age of 74. His legend will live on through these amazing works of art, and will be celebrated in places like the Giger Bar, in which he designed the furniture and nearly everything within.

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