MCTS Cologne

“Music” Maestro Alan Parsons comes to Cologne for a Recording Masterclass

Alan Parsons
Date: May 10 2017
Country: Germany
Venue: Maarweg Studio2.
Event: MCTS Level 2
Artist: Ripstone
Engineer And Producer: Alan Parsons
Event Manager Charlie Steves
Event Producer: Julian Colbeck for KEYFAX NewMedia.


Our first MCTS in mainland Europe took place May 10th 2017 in Cologne Germany with the help of partners New Music Academy with whom we’ve built a new online course—Recording For Musicians, starting later in the year—and our wonderful host Wolfgang Stach at the legendary Maarweg Studio 2.

Located in the heart of Cologne amongst the city’s Romanesque churches and Medieval gates and not far from the magnificent Cologne cathedral, Maarweg Studio 2 used to be the old EMI studios, which as built in the 1950s. Now run by Wolfgang, it's been kept near enough to its original state though with some new gear. The space is small, especially with all the attendees seated in the control room, but it had everything Alan needed on the day to capture a large sound for young band from Biel, Switzerland, Ripstone. Ripstone features Linus Mathys on drums, Ruben Mathys playing all guitars, and Julie Beriger on vocals.

Alan Parsons As Alan took everyone in to the live room to listen to the demo the band suddenly realized they hadn't included the vocal track. So, stepping up to the plate, Julie volunteered to sing along live so we could all get a proper feel for the song. "That was very brave," Alan said afterwards, impressed, and thus setting the tone for an amazing open studio experience. Everyone felt comfortable enough to get involved with the recording in some capacity, all while watching Alan work not only with the mics, instruments and operating the desk as engineer, but also fully functioning as producer by structuring the song, communicating with the band and suggesting ideas. Alan describes this part of an MCTS as a "band's worst nightmare: fifteen producers in one room.”

MCTS attendees are an impressive group in their own right. Cologne boasted a selection of music and recording professionals, including educators, along with an executive from the yachting industry and a top neurosurgeon. At one point an attendee sat down at the Yamaha C7 grand piano and began playing and the part ended becoming an accompaniment throughout most of the song. At first, lyricist and singer Julie seemed a bit apprehensive, even as the Mathys brothers nodded enthusiastically. She thought it might change the mood of the song to something they didn't intend. Keenly aware of this, Alan used his best "studio-bedside manner" and by the end of the day, as the piano was mixed down to a very subtle level, even Julie couldn't deny its benefit to the overall sound.

“The console has a life of its own” said the guys at Maarweg as Alan at one point began twisting knobs violently back and forth to cure some crackling during the recording of acoustic guitar (doubled, one slightly de-tuned). Plenty more channels on the SSL 9000 of course but it was still a good reminder of the realities of recording using a large format, analog console.

MCTS events are themselves all about the trials, tribulations and triumphs of live recording, whether that’s getting good separation but a still cohesive sound on the drums, using room and ambient mics, or dealing with creative personalities in the studio.

Even though there wasn’t time to produce anything like a final mix, Ripstone’s track Cold Rain came out great. Singer Julie Beriger clearly has a great future ahead of her and the band, song, studio, Alan and Attendees all acquitted themselves with distinction.

A Life In The Day
What it’s like working in the studio with Alan Parsons

The key ingredient in any Master Class is hang time with the Master. Not hang time in terms of swapping jokes or sharing the peanuts but considered, observational hang time where you’re able to pick up on the vibe, the pacing, the approach to the day’s proceedings.

These days it can seem everyone has the same information available to them and to some extent we have. How to mic a snare (“use a 57”), how to record upright piano (“point a pair of AKG C12’s at the back from a foot and half away”) but exactly where to point the 57 on ‘this’ snare, how much stereo to shoot for on the upright are the details on which the devil bases almost all his levels of success.

The beauty of MCTS events is that there’s time and opportunity to ask and get answers, to live and learn. And also to contribute.

Validation is often quoted as one of the most valuable take-aways from an MCTS. “I was just going to suggest a little boost at 12k” said one Attendee. “And then Alan comes up and says ‘I think we need a little more at 12k’ and I was like YES!” Hearing can sometimes just be believing in yourself. At the other end of the spectrum are those “You’re right but I’d never have thought of that” moments like when Alan stunned a session in Buenos Aires by physically EQ-ing the left and right overheads and not simply ‘copying’ left and right settings and reminding them: “Recording is about how it sounds, not about how it looks.”

MCTS events are both hands-on and feet on the ground affairs. In fact knees on the ground as often as not. Alan is not averse to plonking himself down n the floor to nudge a mic a half an inch to the right so that it’ll escape the worst of the spill from a neighboring sound source.

There will be many moments in an AP session where the muse and the magic starts to flow. Often you’ve got to be quick and really pay attention to ‘what just happened’. Alan is not going to bang a gong (literally or figuratively) and either telegraph every move he’s making or make some big deal of it after. So much of what makes a great producer or engineer is taste and instinct that the observer needs to keep their wits about them in order to distill a particular moment into tangible lesson form.

Much of what Alan Parsons is all about he learned at Abbey Road, be it overarching concepts like ‘value for money’ or the particular such as miking a concert Grand piano. At all levels, benefiting from Alan‘s lifetime of experience in such a short space of time is an exhausting and exhilarating experience for everyone involved.

The Venue

Maarweg Studio2, Maarweg 149 – 161, 50825 Köln, Germany.
Phone:0221 986 02 -0

Alan and the studio not only a share history with Pink Floyd, who recorded here back in the day, there’s also the EMI connection: Maarweg Studio 2’s 150-square-meter live room was the largest in the old EMI studio complex that the company opened in 1953. The studio still retains an old world vibe (and no doubt sound!) from the live room’s original walnut inlays and cork paneling to its cache of widely sought-after Telefunken V76 valve preamps to a splendid AKG BX 20 spring reverb, resplendent in a wooden cabinet behind the SSL 9000J mixing console. Abbey Road, where Alan trained and worked with The Beatles, Pink Floyd and others, was another EMI Studio complex; only switching its name to Abbey Road in the 1970s in honor of the iconic Beatles album title.

The Artist

Based in Biel, Switzerland, tight, edgy, progressive rock/pop band Ripstone was founded in 2007 by brothers Linus and Ruben Mathys. The current line-up has been in place since 2015 and now features dynamic front woman Julie Beriger on vocals and keyboards. Alan Parsons

Propelled by the virtuoso playing of the Mathys brothers, Ripstone belies their youth and have played over 100 shows, including at such established venues in Bierhübeli, Gaskessel in Berne, Moods, Alte Kaserne in Zürich, Kongresshaus, Podring, Gaskessel, Le Singe in Biel, «Das Zelt» in Vevey and Umsonst and the Draußen Festival in Germany.

The band writes and records all its own material and were runners up in the Emergenza band contest in 2016.

On March 14th Ripstone released their latest single Black Cat / Falling down on 7” vinyl.


  • 09.30–10.00 Welcome, Registration. Coffee and pastries will be served.
  • 10.00–10.30 Alan Parsons introduces the musicians and sets goals for the session.
  • 10.45–11.45 Micing the drums and placement of other instruments for initial tracking.
  • 11.45-1.00 Tracking session with drums, bass, guitar, keyboards and guide vocals.
  • 1.00-2.00Lunch with Alan and performers at the studio.
  • 2.00-4.15 Instrumental overdubs (keyboards, guitar)
  • 4.15-4.30 Break.
  • 4.30-6.30 Lead and backing vocal recording.
  • 6.30–7.00 Q&A with Alan Parsons
  • 7.30 Champagne Reception at the studio

All enquiries to or to KEYFAX NewMedia on 1-800-752-2780

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