ASSR News


MCTS Nashville News Story

Entitled “The Art Of The Song”, the Nashville MCTS saw Alan return to Nashville–site of the first filming sessions for the Art & Science of Sound Recording video series.

Songwriting was the focus of this two-day Level 3 workshop looking at issues ranging from composition to arrangement and performance as well as recording techniques. Famed Nashville listening room The Bluebird Café (featured in the hit TV series Nashville) conducted a month-long song search to find a new, appropriate homegrown song for the event. Alan Parsons himself selected the lucky winner at a special audition just the day before the recording.

Only it didn’t quite work out like that.

Confronted by three very individual performers on stage: Paul Sikes, a young male country-pop singer and guitarist, the brooding JP Williams, blessed with a voice as true as his true-blue country roots and who happens to be blind, and the wonderfully quirky Annie Mosher who’s intensely personal style straddles country music and modern folk.

Alan would clearly not make the best American Idol judge as he simply could not find a winner amongst these three performers, announcing to universal delight that all three would be recorded over the next two days.

This last-minute change of plans was only even theoretically feasible thanks to the quartet of seasoned Nashville session players headed up by guitarist Troy Lancaster. On drums was Nashville uber session player Shannon Forrest playing his beautiful Australian Brady kit (with - if we heard correctly - a eucalyptus finish). Artist in his own right Doug Kahan was on bass and soundmeister Charlie Judge handled keys with a Yamaha Motif flanked by a pair of trusty Roland JP808 modules plus a full compliment of soft synths lodged in his personal ProTools rig.

The first track, written and performed by Paul Sikes, had originally been an upbeat country rocker on Paul’s demo. Alan and Paul decided to give it more of an edgier / U2 feel with lots of sparse and punctuating guitar and a bubbling, arpeggiated synth motif that was SMPTE-d to the main ProTools rig in the control room.

It was fascinating for the mainly non-Nashville Attendees to see the ‘Nashville’ ‘number’ system of charting chords in action–especially in view of this guitar based track being written in Eb.

Once the main tracks were in the bag there was time for one or two key instrumental overdubs before it was straight onto song #2, JP’s beautifully observed country ballad The Dollar, recounting the influence of money for good or bad (“I take all the credit, all the blame…”), as a single greenback floats from bar to homeless person’s coffee can along the highways and back alleys of life.

Time was getting extremely tight as Annie Mosher stepped into the limelight to record her personal and precious take on society’s value of human life through the eyes of her four year old son’s reaction to the death of his goldfish. Talk about the power to move; after the first run-through never mind ‘scarcely’ a dry eye in the house…

The recording of Annie’s song demonstrated Alan’s deft touch when it comes to recording ‘just the right number’ of parts on top of a delicate and highly emotional song such as this. Too much and becomes too produced and slick; too little and why bother, just leave it as an acoustic guitar track.

The Nashville MCTS stood out as the first of these events where women attended at both Platinum and Gold levels and Annie and Alan took full advantage of this with a girls chorus culled from the ranks of the Attendees and Production Manager Abi Mae.

Attendee Gina Towell also sung harmonies on Paul Sikes’ song; her voice matching almost eerily with Paul’s. Interestingly, for Paul’s own vocal Alan put up a U47 and a Miktek C7 and actually chose the Miktek for the final mix, feeling it suited this particular vocal better.

Recording and mixing three songs in two days–never mind to an audience eager to ask questions—is a tall order but once that was accomplished to universal approval from three delighted performers, studio staff, Team ASSR, and twenty-four Attendees.

MCTS Las Vegas Report

Everything that happens in Vegas does NOT have to stay there and the memory of ASSR’s first master class of 2013 will surely linger with the many Platinum and Gold Attendees, some of whom had traveled to sin city from as far a-field as Montana and South Carolina.

Venue for the event was Studio At The Palms, an oasis of civilization in amongst a sea of Vegas kitsch, bling and ker-ching; implausibly, for a multi-million dollar recording studio, probably the most normal looking space in a couple of square miles.

“Iconic Instrumentals” looked at instrumentals for which Alan is rightly renown, with the recording of a new Alan Parsons theme. Sportingly, Alan admitted to the assembled cast first thing on Day 1 that he had suffered writer’s block and that the composition was still fairly embryonic. Silver lining was that Alan had not one but two themes on the boil, both of which ended up being recorded and mixed during the event.

Alan was flanked by a top-notch list of Vegas musicians including Pat Caddick, Jimmy Crespo, Craig Martini, Eddie Rich, and Adam Shendal (replacing Aynsley Dunbar who'd originally been slated for the session). Alan ran down the first tune–a lively, blues-infused rocker, subsequently entitled 702 Rock (the Area Code for Las Vegas)–in the studio for a live tracking session comprising bass, drums, keys (organ), and sax. Even though the sax would later be replaced, spill was a remarkably minor problem due to Alan’s positioning of the players and his mic selection–the first of many ‘wow’ moments for Attendees.

The second track–originally just entitled “Slushy” by Alan, but now the bearer of a new name, Lisa’s Theme, initially featured acoustic piano, bass, drums, and guitar before going on to be fully orchestrated with (real) flute and alto sax, acoustic guitar and a plethora of strings and additional wind instruments courtesy of keyboardist Pat Caddick’s well-endowed VST collection within his MUSE Receptor unit.

Day 2 opened with a breakout session from Dave Polich, who is currently David Foster’s sound designer/programmer and who is widely acknowledged as the guru of the Yamaha Motif platform. Dave also wowed Attendees with a forthcoming sound effects library that contains a staggering recreation (not a sample) of both the clocks and ‘Money’ loop from Dark Side Of The Moon, a recording originally engineered of course by You Know Who.

After more than 50 tracks of recording across two new compositions, Day 2 concluded with a 5.1 Surround mix of Lisa’s Theme in Studio At The Palms’ Studio Y room followed by a guided playback of some landmark ‘surround’ mixes Alan has worked on including tracks by Pink Floyd and Al Stewart.

Master Class Training Sessions are unique training / learning events. Attendees are not simply observing a recording session or listening to a lecture on recording, they are participants. Platinum Attendees actually get to work with Alan on concepts, decisions, choices, takes; fully participating in the cut and thrust, ups and downs, as well as moments of hilarity that happen during a professional recording session. Here in Las Vegas, Gold level Attendees in the ‘Video Village’ also had a remarkable birds-eye view (in Studio Y) where they were not only able to see everything that went on but hear everything on studio monitors.

The icing on these tasty cakes are the breaks and end-of-session Reception where there’s the opportunity to share a drink with Alan Parsons, ask questions and hang with a like-minded engineers, producers, musicians, educators or just plain music enthusiasts.

Actually, only Studio At The Palms gets to stay in Vegas. The message, memories and music created during this inspirational 2-day event was for all who were present to take home and keep forever.

Sylvia Massy started to weave her magic right after Alan Parsons’ 10 A.M. good luck Skype greeting finally pixilated into the ether in front of Attendees, crew and more band members than a chamber orchestra assembled for a day of intensive recording in San Francisco’s swanky Studio Trilogy.

The Control Room

Cognizant of the challenge of recording and mixing Liam McCormick and his cast-of-thousands The Family Crest collective in a single day, Massy lost no time in turfing anyone suspected of being a band member out of the control room so she could lay out her plan of attack.

Massy is the queen of conspiratorial production techniques (three years working as Prince’s engineer might have something to do with that) and it instantly creates a vibe, is enormous fun, and more importantly gets results.

Liam McCormick wrote this ‘Christmas Single’ two days prior to the session. Far from being rough and ready, the track was completely arranged and tightly rehearsed. And that’s arranged as in charts for violin, viola, cello, two trombones, choir…not just ‘we’re going to go bananas at the end of the last chorus.’

The initial tracking session featured McCormick playing a wrist-wrecking piano part, bass, and drums, drummer Charlie Giesige favoring a vintage marching drum that must have been sixteen inches deep as his ‘snare.’

Violin, viola and cello were recorded as a section, Sylvia demonstrating the power and beauty of the MS technique to create a stunning stereo spread. In addition to the MS configuration Sylvia also responded to a suggestion from one of the Attendees to try pair of Royer ribbon mikes in straight stereo.

Trombones and flute followed in rapid succession in order to have more time to spend on the lead vocal. In addition to her own Universal Audio vocal chain, Sylvia set up a U47 and, initially, the SSL’s own mic pres. AB-ing against other mic pres was interesting but the SSLs actually won out at the end of the day.

Army Man

Sylvia Massy is known for some unique studio tools and tricks, one such being ‘Army Man’ a battle-scarred compressor from who knows where or when that Massy often uses to add crunch and grit. Giesige’s snare-less snare needed some enhancement and in addition to some cunning re-amping involving micing up a gated snare track being fed into a cube speaker placed directly on top of a ‘real’ snare drum, Army Guy was also marched into the picture.

After a ‘cheat’ EQ across the master bus to create something approaching a mastered version of the mix, the session concluded with a playback in the packed control room to universal amazement that so much could have been recorded so quickly and sound so good.

event logo
November 1, 2012.

The producers of Alan Parsons’ Art and Science of Sound Recording are proud to announce an ASSR studio training session with Sylvia Massy in San Francisco. This is an extension of our international MCTS series with Alan Parsons. We are pleased and honored to have producer Ms. Sylvia Massy, whose work has received multiple Grammy® awards and nominations, presenting our first session at beautiful Studio Trilogy in San Francisco on December 8th 2012.

Sylvia Massy

Massy has always forged an “unconventional” path. Her first successful rock project, Green Jellÿ, went on to sell over one million albums. Sylvia was then asked to produce the progressive rock group Tool for their label. Both the EP Opiate and the album Undertow that she produced went on to receive multi-platinum success. In the late 1990s, Sylvia worked with veteran producer Rick Rubin, for whom she engineered and mixed several projects, including Johnny Cash's album Unchained, which won a Grammy® award for Best Country Album in 1997. With Rubin, she also recorded Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Slayer, Donovan Leitch, R.E.M., Smashing Pumpkins, and System of a Down. During this time, Massy also produced many popular artists including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sevendust, Powerman 5000, and Love & Rockets. Today at her mountain studio, Loud Palace, Massy hosts sessions for artists from Sublime to Hurt.

During this one-day ASSR studio training session, Sylvia Massy will cover instrument set-up, microphone choices & placement, live instrument tracking, vocals and basic mixing. There will be 20 spaces available for the control room seating. Participants will have the opportunity to watch and ask questions as Massy works with the band from set-up to rough mix. Massy will also bring along her favorite outboard gear from an impressive collection of vintage equipment!

Artist details, pricing, ticket reservation and full schedule details are available on our event page.

The new ASSR Educational License got a major thumbs up from local educators at Keyfax NewMedia’s first annual Music Technology symposium Aug 15th at Keyfax’s new offices in Santa Cruz, CA.

The symposium itself drew representatives from the greater Bay Area from as far as Cogswell Polytechnic in Sunnyvale to MCAET down in Monterey. Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley were represented by its high schools, junior colleges and independent audio engineering and music production schools.

Keyfax Symposium chat with Alan Parsons

Subtitled Challenges and Opportunities in Audio Education, ASSR Media Director Ben Cruz kicked off the mid-week afternoon event with a topic entitled “Is Social Media Your Friend?”

A wide range of observations and perspectives came from the floor including one from Cabrillo College’s James Durland that at least part of school’s role should be physical human interaction, in other words an antidote from the potentially isolationist worlds of Facebook and Twitter. Steve Oppenheimer from PreSonus impressed attendees with the level of embedded media—purely social and professional—currently embedded in the company’s Studio One DAW, including direct-to-fan Nimbit software that was recently acquired by PreSonus.

“Un-Employment Opportunities,” chaired by ASSR’s Charlie Steves and Michael Logue took an initially somewhat jaundiced look at the world of unpaid internships as ‘the new job,’ especially in music and audio. Great ideas were put forward by Beth Hollenbeck from Scotts Valley High School who recounted her years of multi-faceted musical endeavors before becoming an educator. Bill Putnam, CEO and Chairman of Universal Audio, talked about UA’s active intern program that has an impressive conversion record into full time employment.

ASSR Educational License interface

Keyfax CEO Julian Colbeck then called on Alan Parsons at his studio in Santa Barbara for a 30 minute Skype session during the “The Tools They Are A-Changin” topic with Alan volunteering the fact that UA’s ‘tools’ really stood out from the crowd before he realized Bill Putnam was in attendance!

Ben Cruz and Julian Colbeck then took the new ASSR Educational License through its paces from the installed video browser and lightening fast access it delivers to any topic within the entire 10-hour video series to the ‘backend’ of the Student Center with its online quizzes and bonus material. “Thank you, thankyou!” more than one attendee was heard to remark.

The 3-hour Music Technology symposium concluded with refreshments, enabling many of the attendees who have been working and teaching in the same community for many years to meet and chat, some for the very first time.

For more details on the new ASSR Educational License please contact edu@artandscienceofsound.com.

For more photos from the event, be sure to visit our Facebook page!