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In The Studio: Keeping Fresh The Art Form Of Recording

Our main goal should always be to help create music that will touch someone emotionally.

I saw Pink Floyd’s epic film “The Wall” for the first time when I was 12 years old. It was quite possibly, at that time, that I first realized that recorded music held a certain “power.”

The music of that film, coupled with the vibrant, yet bleak imagery, “forced” me to confront a whole range of emotions.

Shortly after, when I heard the album by itself, I found that the music alone still moved me in the same ways. Certain songs were beautiful and soaring and brought a sense of comfort, others evoked confusion and even fear, and I began to wonder how such emotions could be “captured” within a recording.

Like all good little junior rock stars, I started a band with some schoolmates at age 14. At the time I really wanted to play the drums, but didn’t have the money for a drum kit.

I did, however, own a cheap Japanese “sort of guitar shaped thing” and I had some experience making it sound like syncopated duck farts, so naturally I was elected to the position of rhythm guitarist. We wrote all the songs we could with the three chords we knew, and practiced our little hearts out, dreaming of the day we’d “make it big.”

The thing I remember most about those days is that no matter what we were doing, whether it was rehearsing, playing talent shows or backyard parties, we ALWAYS had a little tape recording running.

I loved taking those tapes home and listening to them over and over. This was proof that I was in a real band, and it became my greatest goal in life to record an album.

Playing live is great fun, and for many musicians, the thrill of playing live is what motivates them to hone their craft. On the other hand, recording, while appealing to some, can often be the biggest burden and source of stress to many great players.

But I have always seen making recordings as the best part of the gig. A piece of recorded music is a permanent mark on the artistic world, and I became determined to make records that would effect people the way that “The Wall” effected me.

After a year or so of “boom box recording 101,” we graduated to four-track recording, thanks to our lead guitarist’s weekly allowance and a little invention called the Tascam Porta One Ministudio. If recording my own personal version of “The Wall” was my ultimate goal, what I saw before me now was the first brick.

The possibilities seemed endless, and we got to work right away, recording anything and everything, including our symphony of animal flatulence, and hours of Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix cover tunes. We figured if those guys could make great recordings with limited a limited number of tracks, so could we!

As the years went by. I saw my buddy’s 4-track and Radio Shack microphone-filled bedroom progress to an eight-track project studio, and finally a professional recording facility equipped with a 16-track tape machine with a 24-channel DA7 and a Mac-based DAW. I’ve had the pleasure of making hundreds of recordings within those walls before building a studio of my own.

I’ve recorded as a solo artist, a band member, a session musician (in many different studios), and a few years ago permanently moved to the “other side of the glass” full time. I can honestly say that the “magic” of recording has never eluded me, and I still feel a sense of wonder and adventure every time the tape is rolling.

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I’m several years past 30 –  not at all old by any stretch of the imagination. However, I sometimes feel that the days when recording music was something special were 100 years ago.

Too often I see those who just don’t understand the magic of recording; young musicians who take the studio experience for granted, older musicians and recordists who are too burned out and bitter to enjoy recording anymore, beginning engineers who don’t know what it means to make your gear “bleed for you,” or those with such severe cases of gear lust that they are never productive with the equipment they currently have.

Advances in home recording and project studio gear have been so great in the last 20 years that many fail to see exactly what a privilege it is to practice the recording arts. We must not forget that recording IS an art form, and that our main goal as recordists should always be to help create music that will touch someone emotionally.

I may not ever create “The Wall,” but today I feel privileged to be a bricklayer.

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