MCTS Santa Barbara-Mix It Up 3

In The Mix
Alan Parsons reveals secrets in a mixing masterclass in stereo and Surround

ParSonics Studios
Date: March 7th, 2020
Country: USA
Venue: ParSonics Studios
Event: MCTS Level 3
Producer: Alan Parsons
Engineer: Noah Bruskin
Event Manager: Terry Shields
Event Producer: Julian Colbeck


Al Stewart's Year Of The Cat came under the spotlight at the first mixing master class of 2020, an event held in somewhat challenging circumstances as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread and spread panic around the world. So, first bumps replaced handshakes and alcohol cleaning pads adorned the desk alongside exotic knick-knacks and Alan's recent Grammy.

Alan had been charged with the job of delivering Surround mixes for both Year Of The Cat and Time Passages. Although the title track had in fact already been completed, Alan began the day with a playback of this much loved 'tail' of romantic hijinks in foreign parts. But wait, Alan felt the lead vocal wasn't sitting right. A little too prominent. And so the day began in ernest with a discussion about the volume of a lead vocal, plus a neat illustration of dealing with exactly this type of situation since Alan always takes the precaution of mixing the lead vocal separately back into ProTools so that its level can be adjusted after the event without messing up the entire mix. An attendee suggested a half dB attenuation but Alan said such an amount was not detectable. -2dB was the right amount. And while he was at it, Alan also felt the de-esser had, upon reflection, probably been a hair over-imposing on Al Stewart's notoriously sibilant vocal on the original recording and added a little more top before declaring that mix was, now, finished.

For the full mixes the vote was taken to examine two of the exquisite and multi-faced tracks from Al Stewart's seventh studio album, recorded at Abbey Road in 1976: One Stage Before, and Flying Sorcery. Al Stewart's material ably demonstrates Al Parsons' meticulous attention to detail, both in recording and mixing. The attendees (who also contributed many excellent ideas themselves - thank you James for the sterling idea of putting the 'telephone voice' vocal line in the rear speakers), were enthralled at the display of sounds and textures in these songs.

This was a real mix session, not just an academic exercise. Attendees got to see how processes run and decisions are made in the real world. Mixes created here will be released later in the year. Who know? Maybe Alan's to-date lonely Grammy might get a pal and consign the sanitizer gel and cleaning pads to trash can of history? hand sanitizer

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. 5088

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.


Saturday March 7th 2020

  • 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.

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