MCTS Santa Barbara-A Regular Recording Session 2

Band Recording
Alan Parsons goes indie with Glen Phillips and Dean Dinnnig from Toad the Wet Sprocket plus star guest multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz

Group pic at ParSonics Studios
Date: October 18th, 2019
Country: USA
Venue: ParSonics Studios
Event: MCTS Level 3
Producer: Alan Parsons
Engineer: Noah Bruskin
Artist: Glen Phillips & Dean Dinning from Toad the Wet Sprocket plus Greg Leisz
Event Manager: Terry Shields
Event Producer: Julian Colbeck


After the previous day's scare in the smokey shape of a wildfire in a neighboring canyon to the ParSonics Studio location, everyone was a little anxious about today. Might there be another fire? Would PG&E carry out their threat of a power cut? What's the generator situation? The start of a new recording session can be tense but today there was additional crackle in the air. Thankfully, the only surprises were musical ones as Alan, Toad the Wet Sprocket members Glen Phillips, Dean Dinning with drummer Josh Daubin, accompanied by pedal steel maestro Greg Leisz, wowed Attendees with classy songwriting and top drawer playing.

Greg and Glen at ParSonics Studios Songwriter Phillips had brought along two iPhone demos: one a Dylan-esque modern folk ballad, the other a lilting R&B number that wouldn't have been out of place on a Marvin Gaye setlist in the 1960s. There was even some talk of laying down a Wurlitzer track!

The central theme of the recording master classes is to show the value and mechanics of a group of musicians playing together live. First, though, mics must be set and Alan walked everyone through his mic choice and placement of the drum mics. Engineer Noah Bruskin had brought along a most interesting kit from Sugar Percussion of Santa Cruz, CA, a gorgeous Alaskan yellow cedar kit made from a single tree. The kick is extremely shallow, and Noah uses it without a front head, to the fascination of all concerned, including Alan. And it sounded terrific!

For the tracking session Toad bassist Dean Dinning recorded direct. Glen Phillips wanted to record using an acoustic and so was consigned to an iso booth. Pedal steel is recorded through an amp and so Greg Leisz could remain in the live room while his amp was placed in a secondary iso booth / storage room. The only people who couldn't see each other were bandmates Phillips and Dinning. Everyone else had good sight lines, both with fellow players and with Alan in the control room. Alan is a stickler for making sure the producer or engineer stays in touch with the musicians at all times. No awkward silences or pregnant pauses. Make sure the musicians can hear you and you can hear them. Even though monitor mixes are self-administered level wise, one still needs the occasional affirmation of what is coming in where. Engineers should also be able to heed cries of 'more reverb please' from the live room.

Glen Keith and Alan at ParSonics StudiosWith the initial track in the bag in fairly short order the second song got underway. Phillips felt a rolling brushes pattern was the way to go for drums. Seemed easy enough but as can so often happen in the studio, it just wasn't as easy to execute. The pattern was too snare heavy...On 1 and 3? Just 3? 2 and 4 was suggested. Attendees all offered input and advice and after many variables and an impressive display of patience from Josh Daubin behind the kit, the groove was agreed upon. By this time Glen Phillips' fingers were tiring of the song's continuous finger-picking style. The call went out for any guitarists amongst the Attendees who wanted to come to his rescue?

Twenty-two year old Keith Lewis stepped up to the plate and was soon imprisoned in the iso booth with Glen - the fact that he was also recording his vocal live at the same time adding more pressure to an already delicate situation. But there was no need to worry. Keith scarcely put a finger wrong for any of the takes and an excellent tracking session was delivered.

Greg Leisz at ParSonics StudiosFor overdubs Greg Leisz laid down a couple of mouthwatering Strat parts plus a track on a sort of Hawaiian acoustic guitar. Mellow mellow!

A string section later and it was time to do a quick mix. There had been talk of some female backing vocals seeing as this session was attended by three women, all singers - a very welcome improvement from typically almost exclusively male Attendees - but that will have to wait until another day.

By day's end, although there were no fire dramas, the wind had got up and so the after-session relax-over-a-glass-of-something-nice, normally held outside, was quickly and most kindly relocated to Chateau Alan and Lisa Parsons, where much fun was had and friendships cemented.

What's A Masterclass?

Nowadays, when everyone's a self-proclaimed expert, YouTube star or Instagram influencer, it's almost mandatory for every instructor to be called a master. A 90 minute whizz through a piece of software by an expert with the gift of the gab is not a masterclass. That's a training seminar and very useful they are too.

A masterclass is where you get insight as well as instruction, and from an acknowledged master of their art or craft; someone who's consistently reached the top of their profession. Engineering such a landmark album as Dark Side Of The Moon is probably enough of a qualification by itself. But with Alan you can also throw in dozens of hit records as an assistant engineer, engineer, producer and artist from The Beatles, to Al Stewart, Pilot, Ambrosia and of course The Alan Parsons Project.

At this masterclass you'll first get to see how Alan interacts with the artists and see just how important that is. From listening to a demo to assessing the arrangement, routining, miking drums for a live tracking session (just as he did when engineering Dark Side Of The Moon), advising when the band has reached its peak performance during tracking, to making a decision about how a guitar solo should end or whether this or that style of lead vocal needs double tracking.

Good chemistry between the musicians and the producer is vital in creating a successful 'band' recording session. And it's not just about the basic personalities, it's also the approach you take.

This masterclass will be especially useful for project studio owners, engineers looking to develop into producers, and also musicians who are in a position to record themselves. Especially given the caliber of songwriter, singer and players, this is particular session is set to become a classic. Don't miss it!

ParSonics Studios Montage

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.

Glen Phillips

The Artist

Toad the Wet Sprocket - the name taken from a Monty Python faux band name thought to be so preposterously silly that no one could possibly use it - burst onto the scene in the 1990s with slew of hit singles including "Walk on the Ocean", "All I Want", "Something's Always Wrong", "Fall Down", and "Good Intentions".

Lead singer and guitarist Glen Phillips, bassist Dean Dinning and drummer Josh Daubin will be joined by a very special guest Greg Leisz. Leisz is best known for pedal steel and his touring and recording credits range from Eric Clapton to Beck via Sheryl Crow, Jackson Browne, The Eagles to name but a fraction of his list. Attendees are sure to be treated to Toad's trademark jangly guitars, energetic rhythm section and upbeat vocals, enhanced by colorful instrumentation from Leisz.

A classic session in the making.

The Producer


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.


Friday October 18th 2019

  • 09.30–10.00 Welcome, Registration. Coffee and pastries.
  • 10.00–10.45 Alan introduces the artist and band, plays the demo and sets goals for the day.
  • 10.45–1.00 Tracking session rhythm section, keys and guitar.
  • 1.00–2.00 Lunch with Alan and the musicians.
  • 2.00–4.15 Instrumental overdubs.
  • 4.15–4.30 Tea Break.
  • 4.30–6.30 Vocals and a rough mix

This event was sold out.

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