MCTS Santa Barbara-Recording Vocals with David Pack

Recording Vocals
Alan Parsons and David Pack reunite for a special afternoon master class session

ParSonics Studios

Date: March 6th, 2020
Country: USA
Venue: ParSonics Studios
Event: MCTS Level 2
Producer: Alan Parsons
Artist: David Pack
Engineer: Noah Bruskin
Event Manager: Terry Shields
Event Producer: Julian Colbeck


When all is done and dusted it's the vocal that sells a track; from the crooners of the 1940's and '50s to early rock 'n' roll, glam rock, prog rock, Brit rock, punk rock, to country, hip hop, r&b... really only EDM gets a pass on this one. Be it in volume, emotion, or personality, the lead vocal is simply modern popular music's most important component.

Singer, guitarist and producer David Pack first worked with Alan in the mid 1970s with his band Ambrosia. Alan produced two Ambrosia albums and David contributed vocals or guitars on several Alan Parsons Project albums. The last time they actually worked in the studio together though, upon reflection, was twenty-four years ago, when engineer on this session, Noah Bruskin, was one! "Must have been waiting for you, Noah," quipped one attendee.

The afternoon session got off to a tricky start when it was discovered that the power supply for a mic that David had brought down for a mic shootout was not working. As is so often with these master classes, the people who attend them are both willing and capable engineers in their own rights and we were extremely grateful to David Goodin for soldering a hastily acquired new resistor onto the board for David's Bock 241.

In addition to the mic, and his trusty Distressor, David brought three songs along to the session requiring new vocals. The first, a blue-eyed soul track Spend Another Day got the session off to a great start with David demonstrating that his vocal range and emotional power had not been dimmed one Watt after more than 50 years as a professional singer.

From mic technique, to warm up exercises to insights into how he achieves his immaculate double tracking, David consistently went straight to the essence of subject, leaving attendees in genuine awe at his willingness to share wisdom.

David Pack On the equipment side, the eagerly anticipated mic shoot out - initially without the Bock in the line-up - but comprising a trio of notable contenders - saw the hand-assembled in Nashville Miktek CV4 a very clear winner, its bloom and clarity almost universally noted and admired.

When the fully restored Bock gamer back into the picture for the second song, a somewhat out-of-character but still interesting pop tune called I'm Gonna Be The Change, the Miktek still bravely held off the new challenger. Congrats to the Miktek team!

The team of Alan Parsons was clearly a winning one as well. It may have been a quarter century since they'd worked together but it seemed like a few months and clearly demonstrated the power and value of mutual understanding and respect between a producer and an artist.

Only an afternoon's session but all concerned were keen for a rematch before Parsons and Pack hit their century marks and engineer Noah contemplates retirement.

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.

David Pack

The Artist

"Anything David touches, he elevates, and that's a true gift from God," says Quincy Jones, after which much if not all other comment becomes somewhat redundant.

David Pack is the original co-founder of legendary prog-rock band Ambrosia, the voice and sole writer of their classic hits from the 70's and 80’s. He went on to become a successful solo artist, Grammy-winning record producer, advisor to companies ranging from Avon to Kodak, and Music Director of global special events including both of President Clinton's Inaugural Galas and events for Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Billy Joel, Madonna and others.

His collected works have sold over 50 million units worldwide.

David’s career exploded onto the music scene with the release of Ambrosia’s acclaimed debut progressive rock album Ambrosia (1975) on 20th Century Fox Records. Mixed by Alan Parsons, it produced the Billboard top-20 smash hit “Holdin’ On To Yesterday” that David co-wrote and sang, and which was Grammy-nominated for “Best Engineered Album of the Year.”

In 1980, for Ambrosia’s album One Eighty, David wrote and sang the now classic #1 hit “Biggest Part of Me (Make a Wish)” a BMI 4 Million Airplay, 3X Grammy-nominated song, along with the top-20 hit “You’re the Only Woman” a BMI 2 Million Airplay-awarded song. The band was featured on American TV shows that included co-hosting Dick Clark’s Rockin' New Years’ Eve 1981, Midnight Special, and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. “Biggest Part of Me” would stay at #1 on Radio & Records, eclipsing hits by Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Bob Seger and others, for five straight weeks.

David PackAt the initial behest of Quincy Jones, David went on to become a highly successful producer, scoring Gold and Platinum success with numerous artists including Kenny Loggins, Aretha Franklin, Selena, Natalie Cole, Michael McDonald, Linda Ronstadt, Brian McKnight, Phil Collins, CeCe Winans, Trisha Yearwood, and others. .

In 1996, Pack’s career masterwork was released on RCA: The Songs of West Side Story - A Tribute to Leonard Bernstein. The work was conceived, arranged and produced by Pack and featuring 27 legendary superstars including Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, Selena, Wynonna, Trisha Yearwood, Little Richard, Chick Corea, Brian Setzer, Steve Vai, Phil Collins, and TLC. The CD was RIAA-certified Gold and raised money for Grammy in the Schools and Leonard Bernstein's Education Foundation.

Over his career David has seldom been out of the spotlight, releasing a span of successful solo albums, singing, writing and producing other artists and being the driving musical force behind numerous life-altering charitable events. Pack's direction of the AIDS Project L.A. Commitment to Life fundraiser featured Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Billy Joel, Eddie Van Halen, Natalie Cole and other greats performing David’s arrangements of West Side Story. David musical directed both of President Clinton's inauguration galas. More recently, with Napa Crossroads, David collaborated with the CEO’s of five of Napa’s top wineries on an all-star album that spawned “Napa Crossroads Live,” which debuted at Napa’s famed “Bottlerock” music festival.

David cites his devout faith as the single driving force in his life. David is a hands-on supporter of charities and causes including: Slide Ranch for Kids, St. Helena Hospital, Rick Warren’s PEACE Initiative, AIDS Project L.A., Dream Foundation, American Bible Society, NSAI, Cystic Fibrosis, American Cancer Society, Grammy In The Schools and Convoy of Hope. In 2019 David and his wife Stacey founded the “Stacey Pack Best Life Cancer Foundation,” a 501c3 charity helping Artists and their families battling cancer. The foundation's kickoff fundraiser featured long time friend Michael McDonald and wife Amy Holland, and Leonard Bernstein's daughter Jamie. David and Stacey are both cancer survivors and have a clearly insatiable appetite for helping others.

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, Cockney Rebel, John Miles, The Alan Parsons Project, a concept created by himself and Eric Woolfson, and Ambrosia, led by David Pack, with whom he engineered, produced and mixed on three albums between 1975-1978.

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.

Recommended Hotels:

  • Ritz-Carlton Bacara 8301 Hollister Ave, Goleta, CA 93117-2474 • (844) 631-0595 Upscale resort with fine dining. Very expensive!
  • Hilton Garden Inn Santa Barbara/Goleta 6878 Hollister Ave, Goleta, CA 93117 • (805) 562-5996. Very pleasant facility a short drive from the studio.
  • Pacifica Suites 5490 Hollister Ave, Santa Barbara (805) 683-6722 Professional mid price option.
  • Motel 6 5897 Calle Real, Goleta, CA (805) 964-3596 Only a 2-star but clean and perfectly acceptable.


Friday March 6th 2020

  • 2.00–2.15 Alan introduces David and plays the tracks
  • 2.15–2.45 Mic shootout and vocal chain comparisons
  • 2.45–4.15 Recording
  • 4.15–4.30 Tea break
  • 4.30–6.30 Recording with Q & A to follow
  • Note: We also held a full day Mixing and Recording master class on the 7th and 8th of March.

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