A Semester Tracked In Eight Hours

Nov 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Tim Hall

MTSU STUDENTS GET A CRASH COURSE IN PROFESSIONAL RECORDING

Polls


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With all the tracks in, we relied on John Jaszcz's Grammy Award-winning skills to mix the song at his place before it would get sent to Bob Ludwig for mastering. John Jaszcz put the song together perfectly and had each element sitting nicely within the track. He did a portion of the mix in the box using EQs and compressors by McDSP with some Waves SSL emulations and a few things by PSP, including that company's vintage gear emulations. The mix was then summed through a Raindirk Symphony console for that analog sound.

When everything was said and done, and Ludwig sent us back the master with a few different compression schemes from which to choose, Dick made his final choice and the song went on to duplication and distribution. It was a great learning experience for everyone who participated in the project, but that wasn't the end of the recording plans for MTSU Records. We still had a bunch of artists to record that semester, not to mention a new semester on the horizon. All I know is I had the opportunity to work with a lot of very talented and well-respected individuals in the music business that I'll never take for granted because an education like this is hard to come by.

Dick Williams and the Class

Former VP of promotions at EMI, Dick Williams has had a long and successful career with a hand in many hit songs from artists such as David Bowie, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Elton John, Wendy Moten and the list goes on. I had the pleasure of assisting his class last term by performing a lot of the engineering duties the class required, as well as acting as the temporary president of the newly renamed record label, MTSU Records. During the process, I gained much insight from the numerous guest speakers Dick brought in, as well as getting a first-hand look at what he wanted to do with the class.

Being that this was your first time teaching in a class setting such as this, what kind of things did you want to bring to the table?

My first inclination was to draw upon some of the gifted students at MTSU to fill my classroom. Ironically, as the semester was coming to a close, each of the recording classes put on display their most significant work in a two-hour listening session. This gave me a glimpse of the talent pool that I would be able to tap from. As you know, this is how you and Hannah Phillips were chosen to be the nucleus of the class.

The next step was to create an agenda that none of the other faculty members would have taught. So I chose to demonstrate international synergy. To do this with some degree of effectiveness, I called upon my friends John Jaszcz and Grant Greene to help me record something commercially viable. John and I had worked on several recordings together, and Grant, his assistant, is an alumnus of MTSU. They worked frequently at a studio owned by producer/arranger John Lawry.

How many people were interested in taking your class, and how did that inaugural class go?

After opening my class registration to anyone in the school interested in it, 42 students enrolled. To quickly recognize each of the student's capabilities, I devised an aptitude test covering a variety of subjects. I told the students on the first day of class, “You're not going to be graded on the results of this test. I just want to know your knowledge of the music industry.”

I was pleasantly surprised to see such a diversified assemblage of students. There were those that aspired to be recording artists; others wanted to be producers, engineers, musicians, publishers, managers, record executives and songwriters. Some of them just took the class to gain a better understanding of the music business.

On my second class, I asked, “Who among you wish to be considered as artists that will have recording privilege?” Several students raised their hands. So I decided to have an audition on the following day of class. As the students entered the room, one of them, Jeffery Owens, pulled me aside and asked if it would be okay for him to sing a cappella as he didn't have a recording demo or music track to accompany him. There were eight students that wanted to be considered. When I asked who would like to go first, Jeffery volunteered. I was so moved by his courage; it really set the pace of my class for the entire semester. Everyone wanted to contribute in some way.

It really was something unique, getting all these students and the different departments working together. But you also went outside?

The success of the recording experience inspired me to call upon several of my former clients and music business colleagues to offer the students some guidance, motivation and knowledge from their personal experiences. Therefore, in addition to having a Grammy Award-winning production team, the students heard from recording artist Wendy Moten; Internet marketing specialist Greg Markel; CAA booking agent John Huie; world-renowned rock photographer Robert Knight; Seinfeld producer Tim Kaiser; guitar prodigy Tyler Bryant; my former promotion staff member and a current professor at Georgia State University Jim Davenport; and the former head of EMI Worldwide, Rupert Perry.

To cap off my semester, Bob Ludwig mastered our class recording project, and Deane Cameron, president of Capitol Records in Canada, agreed to press our CD and make it available to territories around the world. Now I'm prepared to do it all over again with a few additional surprises.






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