Recording With a Neophyte

(In a Professional Studio)

Story By Paul Moffett. Photos by Mia Rae

The Long Island Recording Studio is a studio connected to the Lexington School For Recording Arts, so it seemed only appropriate that a trip to Lexington to visit the company's new facility (and to take advantage of an offer from owner Wil Freebody to do a bit of recording) should also involve a bit of training. Specifically, by exposing a neophyte bass player to the fundamentals of professional recording.

The bass player in question is also a teacher, so the circle is complete. Michael Price, IT Director and teacher at Trinity High School in Louisville, has spent the past two years learning to play both the double bass and electric bass, in order to be able to jam with his musical friends. During that period, the above-mentioned Freebody had gently requested me to come back to Lexington and write about his school again. As it also happened during that period, I wrote a new tune that I thought worth recording. Thus, a trip to Lexington.

Photo of Michael Price with his 'ears on'
Photo By Mie Rae
Michael Price with his 'ears on'

The new facility housing the Lexington School For the Recording Arts is on the east side of Lexington, in a two-story in industrial building that offers much more space than the previous location at a strip-mall. Two very pleasant studios, one large enough to handle a high school choir and a somewhat smaller one, are equipped with 48- and 32-channel mixing boards respectively, dumping the signal to very fast hard discs, to be mixed later with the requisite Pro Tools package. Both studios are quite musician-friendly. Photos of the facility are available at www.lirco.com.

While the studios are equipped with industry-standard microphones, there are older mikes (and older equipment) in the building, spanning back to the first part of the Twentieth Century. While the older microphones (including the mike John Lennon used at the first Beatles' Shea Stadium concert. Really.) could probably be put into service if needed, mostly they sit on display in the "Edison" Museum that occupies the second floor of the building.

The museum, built around the theme of the inventions of Thomas Edison, houses Freebody's collection of old recording equipment (plus photographic equipment) from early Edison players to mid-20th Century audio equipment. Tours are available by arrangement with the school.

The Recording Arts School, the only licensed Audio Engineering School in Kentucky, offers certification programs of various lengths, plus job placement assistance. As Freebody notes, Audio Engineers are not just studio engineers but are also in demand in the radio and television industry.

"It's a science course, not a music course," Freebody says. He noted that a lot of students are surprised to find out that they have to learn some physics and electrical engineering to pass this certification. The school also offers help with financial assistance.

Photo of Paul Moffett, seated discusses mixing with Wil Freedbody, standing. Erin Cheeks manages the mxingboard while students observe.
Photo By Mie Rae
Paul Moffett, seated discusses mixing with Wil Freedbody, standing. Erin Cheeks manages the mxingboard while students observe.

The students also are involved with professional sessions that happen in the two studios, so that they get real-world experience. (Freebody also runs a small record company at the business.)

So the acoustic duo of Moffett and Price got set up in the studio and, of course, the neophyte bassist was asked to lay down his bassline first, though without playing with a click track. Instead, he listened to the rhythm guitar while he thumped out the bass part. After some half-dozen tries, he managed to get a satisfactory take and left the isolation booth with relief.

"I've seen the recording process on video," he noted, "but getting in the isolation booth with headphones on is a completely different matter. It doesn't sound at all the same as it does in practice and jams. "

Price also added some vocals to the recording.

Photo of The author picks
Photo By Mie Rae
The author picks

The rest of the session went smoothly and we left with a basic demo of the new tune, with room for additional instrumentation if desired. Without the click track, of course, it was not practical to try to record elsewhere and assemble the song in post-production, but then this was not planned to be a full production.

On the drive home, listening to the rough mix CD, Price noted ruefully that he needed new bass strings, too.

Photo of Students micing a session.
Photo By Mie Rae
Students micing a session.

Engineer Erin Cheeks and in-house producer Michael Thomas were exceptionally helpful (and notably non-judgmental, bless `em.). Thanks to them and others who helped. Special thanks to Wil Freebody for the session, the lesson the tour and the chat.

Check www.louisvillemusicnews.net for more photos from the session. Visit www.lirco.com for more information and photos about the school and studio.