Nashville Skyline

Sep 1, 2003 12:00 PM, By Rick Clark

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When digital recording first arrived on the scene in the '80s, Nashville was first in line to sign up for the format. Legendary producer and record exec Jimmy Bowen spearheaded the city's embrace of the new direction, and, when ADAT arrived and eventually DAWs, Music City bought into them in a big way, too — from commercial facilities to songwriter home studios.

Over the years, I had been watching the development of recording software that worked in native computer environments. One company that I always thought was onto a good thing was Steinberg. I always felt that it was a matter of time before personal computer power was such that one could run heavy-duty recording applications and do serious work. While Steinberg had some great programs, like Cubase VST and WaveLab, I felt that they really “arrived” with a program called Nuendo. I wasn't alone in that feeling, as Chuck Ainlay, one of Nashville's (and the recording world's) finest engineer/mixer/producers, jumped onboard with great enthusiasm for the program and its capabilities.

This summer, I was offered the chance to check out a Nuendo seminar that was put on by Nashville's Primal Gear. Primal Gear (www.primalgear.com) sells and supports a wide variety of new and vintage gear and is located on Music Row. The Primal Gear Nuendo Power Users School — which was held at Belmont University in The Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business wing of the school — was conceived to provide a formal training to teach the ins and outs of the Nuendo program (for both Mac and PC), including the latest edition: 2.0.

“In selling the Nuendo system, we noticed that no training course had been offered by the manufacturer, Steinberg,” says Primal Gear owner Duncan Rowe. “We presented the idea to the folks at Steinberg and they gave us their blessing to develop a curriculum and offer formal training.

“The first Primal Gear Nuendo Power Users School was held in December '02, also at Belmont, and it was a great success. Twelve people attended, making it a nice, intimate group, which gave us plenty of opportunity for individual attention,” Rowe continues. “We are currently running the school each quarter with the next two-day course set for September 28 to 29. We find that with each course, we make improvements. We have each attendee fill out an evaluation form at the end of the course and ask for suggestions. We have had nothing but positive feedback so far, and our instructor, Steve Mabee, receives great praise each time.”

From my perspective, Mabee was an excellent teacher. As an admittedly old-school kind of guy, I've never thrown myself into the whole DAW and recording software world. I've always just hired people who could work it. From the beginning of the session, Mabee covered all of the points and answered everyone's questions in as much detail as was needed in a very clear fashion. A half hour into the event, I was pretty stoked, as were the other students who represented a wide range: from young recording school graduates to more experienced engineers looking to keep up with new technology and introduce themselves to the DAW world. It was interesting to me that the school, just in its second session, has already attracted attendees from as far as Connecticut and North Carolina.

“I think the idea of the Nuendo School came from watching the way Nuendo users worked with the application,” states Mabee. “In using the Nuendo software, I knew that most of our clients were only touching the surface of what it was really capable of. Most of our clients start working with Nuendo right before big projects and are so busy that they never have the chance to really get in depth with it. The idea was to educate the students about the application and make them understand how they can create the answers to their own questions. When the student leaves the class, we not only want them to walk away with the knowledge we gave them about the operation of the program, but also the knowledge to be able to answer their own questions in the future.

“In the writing of the curriculum, Wesley Bulla and I tried to focus on designing the course on real-world needs,” adds Mabee. “We set up the classroom in a semi-circle and outfitted every two students with their own Nuendo rig. Every task I perform on the projector screen can easily be mimicked by the students, keeping the class highly interactive and less monotonous. We also set up two FAQ sessions every day where we attempt to interact with each student one-on-one, making sure that the large amount of information is sinking in.”

One of my classmates was engineer/mixer Bob Bullock, who has been involved with some heavy-duty projects over the years, including working with Robert “Mutt” Lange on Shania Twain's albums, as well as releases from George Strait, Reba McEntire, Waylon Jennings, Patty Loveless, The Tubes, Nanci Griffith, John Prine and Todd Snider.

“I feel I gained in two days what would have taken two months to learn any other way,” says Bullock, who not only works in many of the main studios in Nashville, but also runs his own facility, The Dining Room. “I still feel I am a friend and a client to the professional re-cording studio. At the same time, I am glad I have Nuendo to work with at other studios, as well as my home.”

On the second day, Primal Gear brought in Karl McBride of TechRep Marketing, and he gave everyone the lowdown on a number of software programs and libraries that interface well with Nuendo, particularly The Grand, Groove Agent, Halion String Edition and Virtual Guitarist (acoustic and electric editions). In the near future, Primal Gear is planning on augmenting the course with a DVD that should be completed by early next year.

I was told by Primal Gear that Steinberg was going to be putting on an event during Summer NAMM in Sound Stage Studios and SAE Institute.

One of the day's highlights involved a NAPRS-sponsored panel discussion, featuring producer/engineers Chuck Ainlay, Jeff Balding, Gary Paczosa, Steve Bishir, George Massenburg and Tony Brown. This event marked one of the first public appearances by Brown, who suffered a near-fatal fall in April. The panel covered topics ranging from how DAWs have changed the production flow, getting started as an engineer, hi-res and surround (they all like it), the future of music and how it will be released (no one knew), and their first piece of gear. There was a surround demonstration at the outset of the panel, featuring work by each of the panelists. The sound was delivered through an NHT system that was quite impressive.

During the day at Sound Stage, Primal Gear offered an edited version of its Nuendo Basics School, while engineers Bishir and Paczosa demonstrated real-world applications of Nuendo with recording and mixing sessions. A common denominator for all of the engineers involved is their enthusiasm for Studio Network Solutions' A/V SAN, as they all have recently added it to their arsenal of gear. Studio Network Solutions was demonstrating its storage solutions in a workshop at SAE.

Besides Studio Network Solutions and Steinberg, there were also product demonstrations by NHT Pro, Apogee and Waves. Steinberg, however, was rolling out Nuendo 2.0, and one of the day's highlights involved a live Nuendo recording of a rootsy trio called Blue Mother Tupelo, which I was told was discovered by Brown. He introduced the band from the stage and, for the next couple of hours, everyone was treated to a set of spirited blues rock that included originals and a smart cover of Junior Kimbrough's “Meet Me in the City.”

Audio-Technica provided all of the mics for the stage, and Clair Brothers Audio supplied the incredible sound. Ainlay, Paczosa, Massenburg and Bishir took turns recording the live performance to Nuendo in Ainlay's studio, BackStage.

The idea for this event was born out of Ainlay's desire to offer some more pro audio options for Summer NAMM attendees. “I just thought it would be great to bring together some of the coolest gear that I use, good food and drink, and interesting discussion to fill a summer day. We hope to make this a tradition,” he said after the event.


Send your Nashville news to MrBlurge@mac.com.






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