May the Fourth be with you! Today is the quietly (or perhaps not so quietly) celebrated nerd holiday of May 4th. I decided to share a few things that you all might find interesting in that light!
Here is a behind the scenes look at the scoring of Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Recorded in Abbey Road Studios, John Williams spent a week with George Lucas, hashing out exactly how he wanted the soundtrack to score. This video has some great insight into what goes on while we are trying to record large bands, and the decisions that are made on the producer’s couch.
They continued the scoring at Abbey Road studios in 2005, working on Episode Three: Revenge of the Sith.
While we all known that Darth Vader was voiced by James Earl Jones, the actor who portrayed the figure was actually David Prowse. We can see the curtain pulled back from the movie magic in this next clip, and hear what sounds more like Rick Moranis in Spaceballs, rather than James Earl Jones and the “real” Darth Vader.
photo caption: Students making patches for their 9th Cycle band clinic
When it comes to audio, signal flow is king. Conservatory students are schooled from day one on the importance of getting their ins and outs correctly patched, and then they put the concepts into practice in their clinics and personal projects in the school’s 8 studios. Making correct patches can make or break a session and the students pictured above are making sure they have all their audio ducks in a row. In the 9th Cycle band clinic, students set up the studio to track a full drum kit, bass, guitar and keyboards. Later in the same cycle, they do the same but add vocals and various other overdubs. All this is in preparation for their Cycle 10 projects where they are in complete control, and the outcome of the session relies on their ability to make the right decisions. The Conservatory’s reality-based curriculum puts control in the hands of the students after they’ve been given a sound foundation in audio terminology, signal path, studio operations and working as a team.
photo caption: 8th cycle students setting up mics for their advanced drum clinic
When you get to the tail end of the on-campus portion of your Conservatory education, it’s all about getting ready for the real world of audio. The last three cycles expose students to what we call the “Sink or Swim” sessions. This means students become solely responsible for the final product, that is, getting audio properly recorded. The instructor takes on the role of the producer and the outcome of the session relies on the students working effectively as a team to get the job done.
Students aren’t just thrown into the deep end, from Cycle 1 at The CRAS you are given a solid base of knowledge and experience that carries you through to your advanced studies. The Cycle 8 Advanced Drum Clinic gives students experience in setting up mics on a drum kit, and recording and playback in surround. Students use the Grado Vectored Array to capture the drums in surround, and then play it back in the control room using the Quad bus on the SSL 4000G+ console. Any mic in the Conservatory’s extensive mic locker is fair game on these sessions. Students use mics from Blue, AKG, Shure, Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, Yamaha and Neumann to get the best drum tracks possible.
CRAS students recently participated in the creation of an upcoming webcast for Mix Magazine titled Tracking The Band. The session took place in the Conservatory’s Studio A where a four piece band was tracked entirely on a Mackie Onyx 1640i console, which includes a FireWire interface that records directly to any DAW software.
The entire session was recorded to a MacBook Pro 13″ laptop running Pro Tools M-Powered, the same computer and software each student receives when they enroll in the program. You can see exactly what the students experienced during the session by registering for the free Webcast where you’ll be entered in a raffle for the Mackie Onyx 1640i valued at $2199. See pictures from the session here then after you register,Â log-in on September 30th 2pm EST/11am PST and view the session where you’ll learn about:
Recording guitar, bass, drums, piano, synth, sax and vocals
Proper mic choice and placement
EQ and compression tips
Jumping between tracking, overdub and mixing workflows
Setting up headphone mixes while recording, both to and from the DAW
Interfacing outboard gear such as compressors and time-based processors
Mike Lewis, vice president of product marketing at Fender joined CRAS for a special recording session in Tempe Studio A on 9/17/2009. Director of education Mike Jones ran the show with the help of CRAS students. So why is a VP at Fender playing a beautiful Gretsch guitar? Simple… Fender markets, produces, and distributes Gretsch guitars. Fender’s international headquarters are located near CRAS allowing the two companies to easily form a mutually benneficial relationship. At CRAS you’ll find all kinds of Fender products on campus including guitars and amplifiers. See photos of the session here.
Joe Morris at the Congas in the Cycle 3 overdub clinic
The Conservatory is always abuzz with some kind of music. Pro players such as Joe Morris (Esteban, Sting, Ray Riendeau) in the above video are on campus most days laying down tracks or playing in the Conservatory’s 6,000 sq. ft. Live Sound venue. In the conga overdub session above, students are using two AKG 414s placed in a stereo pair and the new Brauner Phanthera pulled back about 3 feet for some mono room perspective.
photo caption: Guitarist Tony Kinchion setting up for a band clinic.
Band clinics are a common thing at the Conservatory. Students get their hands on all kinds of gear during the program so we can assess their skill level and expose them to techniques that are new as well as tried and true. For instance, the amp pictured above is a new Fender SuperSonic and it’s being recorded with a Blue Woodpecker active ribbon mic and a Shure SM57. The Woodpecker is a fresh new product while the 57 has been around for decades.
Clinics range from instructor-led workshops early in the program and progress to Sink or Swim sessions and Projects where the students are soleley responsible for the outcome. Its this brains-on, then hands-on approach that makes CRAS grads able to enter the audio workplace with marketable skills.