MCTS Santa Barbara-Mix It Up 2

Mixing It Up
Alan Parsons re-examines past glories for a mixing masterclass in stereo and surround

ParSonics Studios
Date: October 17th, 2019
Country: USA
Venue: ParSonics Studios
Event: MCTS Level 3
Producer: Alan Parsons
Engineer: Noah Bruskin
Event Manager: Terry Shields
Event Producer: Julian Colbeck


AmoniaAvenueAmonia Avenue was the seventh Alan Parsons Project album; recorded in 1982 and 1983 at Abbey Road and released to great acclaim in 1984.

Attendees for this master class were delighted to be handed a sheaf of original track sheets as Alan talked a little about the technology employed on the recordings. The album was initially recorded on 24-track analog tape (plus a 16-track slave reel) but mixed directly to digital. This was a significant period in music production. 'Digital' was the buzzword, from professional recording and mastering (from 3M and Sony) to the consumer CD format, to house-priced digital 'instruments' like the Synclavier and Fairlight that introduced musicians to sampling technology. And of course, MIDI: first shown at Winter NAMM in 1983, which gave life to computer-based 'sequencers' that would soon morph into audio-including Digital Audio Workstations - still the anchor recording technology to this day.

Alan had originally felt a vote on which track to mix might be appropriate. But having mentioned the title track as a 'good place to start' the capacity crowd of Attendees immediately murmured their approval.

First came the job of identifying some of the names on the tracksheet. FL was quickly logged as the Fairlight, an instrument that Alan used extensively at this time and on Amonia Avenue for the 'chiffy' whistle sound that links the vocal and instrumental sections that Kanye admired, shall we say, on Heartless.

Alan talked about Chris Rainbow's immaculate harmonies ("our own private Beach Boys") and Andrew Powell's lush baroque orchestral arrangement of Eric Woolfson's epic hymn-like melody and chord structure. As is becoming Alan's trademark approach, he began by allocating tracks to their 5.1 Surround positions first. For the orchestra, high strings at the back, low strings at the front, horns center back, trumpets and trombones at the back left and right, woodwinds spread across the front channels, harmonies spread across the back...More than one Attendee commented that the magical experience of being right inside the music totally convinced them of why music should always be mixed this way.

Once the 5.1 placements were set Alan switched to stereo for EQ and processing. Alan's comments and observations on reverbs were illuminating and his explanation of the importance and value of pre-delay priceless. Just two reverbs were used, so as to create cohesion in the track. Question: "How many plug-ins do you need?" Answer: "Not that many." Alan Leading

For a song as immensely multi-faceted as Amonia Avenue the mix came together quickly. So quickly in fact that by mid afternoon, aside from final final tweaks, it was finished. And so onto a new track, the album's big hit Don't Answer Me. For Attendees, this really helped solidify Alan's approach to mixing.

If that wasn't enough, Alan even moved onto a third track Prime Time, still a popular live song in Alan's touring band the Alan Parsons Live Project.

Typically, days end with a glass of vino, photos and the presentation of certificates but at 6 O'Clock Alan's wife burst into the studio with the news that the neighboring canyon was on fire and that we had to evacuate!

Streaming out into the late afternoon sun it was indeed boiling hot, the wind blowing like a, well... and, alarmingly, coming from where we could see smoke billowing over the crest of hill to the North. A quick but still remarkably ordered evacuation ensued, with cautious eyes on hard drives and personal possessions left behind. The wind eventually died down and the fire contained. Everyone reconvened in a Santa Barbara wine bar followed by dinner at a splendid Indian restaurant on State Street. Alan and event producer Julian Colbeck are English, though. No need to turn an emergency into a disaster.

In spite of the hasty exit, the day was a resounding success and three Attendees who had only booked for the first of this two day session, booked up for the following day as well.

Learning is rarely quite this exciting.

Mixing With Alan Parsons

Mixing was a something of a team sport back in the day, when band members would end up with their paws on the faders too - shockingly, the ones relating to their own instrument! No prizes for guessing in which direction they'd progressively creep as the session wore on. As Alan recounted with a sigh in the Art & Science Of Sound Recording video series: “Chaos.”

Although Alan does use an analog Neve 5088 over which several pairs of hands could certainly hover, this will be a fully integrated modern mix in ProTools using plug-ins and automation. That said, Alan always encourages attendees who are willing and interested to balance the track at various stages along the way. There's nothing quite like sitting at the controls of a Neve board mixing an Alan Parsons record with Alan offering words of encouragement and wisdom over your shoulder. Katie and Alan

The Venue

ParSonics studio is situated on Alan Parsons' at his Tres Vientos Ranch in the hills above Santa Barbara. This state-of-the-art facility has a 32-channel Neve 5088 analog console, 5.1 monitoring through B&W 802 Diamond Loudspesakers and a selection of microphones collected by Alan over his 40+ year long career such as his Neumann U47 FET (Field-Effect Transistor) and British Coles 4038 ribbon mics as well as interesting newer items like the Neve RNR1 ribbon mic, personally given to Alan by Rupert Neve. Talk about bragging rights! The control room looks through to a generous sized tracking room with adjoining iso booths. The facility has its own luxurious green room and catering area; a spacious patio area overlooks the Pacific Ocean and can accommodate both dining and outside seminars. ParSonics was completed in 2018 and was used in the recording of Alan Parsons' most recent album The Secret, released on the Frontiers label May 2019.

The Artist/Mixer

Alan Parsons was trained at Abbey Road Studios in London, working under the direction of Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick and Beatles producer George Martin. After working with The Beatles on Let It Be and Abbey Road Alan started working as a full-fledged engineer with Paul McCartney, Wings, George Harrison, and countless other artists who came to Abbey Road studios.

In 1972 Alan became the sole engineer working with Pink Floyd on Dark Side Of The Moon, a record which would go on to sell more than 45m copies. (Alan's legendary 'Quad' mix of Dark Side Of The Moon was finally included on the Immersion Edition 6 CD Boxed Set.)

Alan went on to become one of the most successful producers of the 1970s and 1980s, producing a string of hits with artists such as Pilot, Al Stewart, Ambrosia, Cockney Rebel, John Miles and of course The Alan Parsons Project, a concept created by himself and Eric Woolfson.

Post 'Project' Alan Parsons has continued to work as an independent producer with such artists as Jake Shimabukuro, Steven Wilson and Yes. Alan runs a highly successful touring band (The Alan Parsons Live Project).

In 2019 Alan released his fifth solo album The Secret, much of which was recorded and all of which was mixed at ParSonics Studio.


Thursday October 17th 2019

  • 09.30–10.00 Welcome, Registration. Coffee and pastries.
  • 10.00–10.45 Alan plays the original mix of the track and talks about how it was recorded, the studio, players etc.
  • 10.45–1.00 Surround Mix.
  • 1.00–2.00 Lunch with Alan and the musicians.
  • 2.00–4.15 Stereo Mix
  • 4.15–4.30 Tea Break.
  • 4.30–6.30 Mixing tips, Q&A.

This event was sold out.

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