It’s always amazing to get in to different audio settings and have learning experiences outside of school. Having the opportunity to record to tape at Soundpark studios in Northcote was a real eye-opening time for me, and provided a wealth of extra knowledge about the recording process, as well as cementing concepts and understandings I have been building throughout my degree.
Having to walk into a new and unknown studio and be able to navigate is quite a daunting thought to me, but that is the reality of the industry. I guess the hope is that, if one is knowledgeable in audio and signal flow in general, abilities can be transferred to foreign environments - once you’re adept at once desk, in working through recording methods in one studio, skills can be adopted with the use of any (because the fundamental concepts and technologies are the same).
And that is the exciting part to me! That my knowledge could potentially become in-depth and all-rounded enough that I could appropriate it to various scenarios; problem-solving and troubleshooting to make things work. I look forward to the day that I will hopefully feel confident in doing this! It isn’t rote learning for a single desk, a single piece of outboard gear, a single type of DAW - it’s knowing how they all work enough to apply the rules in an artistic, possibly unconventional way (the ol’ ‘know the rules in order to break them’, as they say).
I’ve realised that in terms of this underlying conceptual understanding I’m pleased with where I am so far - what I have learnt and are continuing to learn. There are gaps in my knowledge, which personally will come more from the practice of these skills… and practicing them over and over again.
A point that stood out in our session at Soundpark, recording the amazing band Batz, was one of time management. When booking studio spaces, working with artists, clients, engineers always have to keep mind of schedule and pace. Once our band were there we, thankfully, were quite prepared in terms of equipment and setting up, but still really had to knuckle down and have everything happening! Which is all dependent upon the pre-talent hours – how well things are organised, set-up, ready to be used.
I think my team underestimated the amount of organisation involved - we didn’t plan to every detail (such as pre-amps and outboard gear), and, leaving it until the day, when there is already a lot to think about and consider, only adds to the stress of having everything prepared for the band. This also stemmed from us not defining our roles extensively - a few aspects were thought to have been covered by different people (and then those were unaware responsibility fell on them).
There was also more running around and helping out wherever and whenever – our roles became more fluid.
Working in groups for me is an enjoyably educational experience - there’s always something to take from it, about myself, about others and our interactions.
In a learning setting though I sometimes find it difficult - only because it means that you’re not involved in all parts of the process (time-wise that of course wouldn’t really allow anyway). There are holes to my knowledge of the experience because I didn’t get to witness/experience/do it all. Again though, the more I practice the more I’ll know!
Looking back I would have liked to have more hands-on experience with the tape machine, I observed and admired more than anything. It was really cool to have had a very clean and professional band, so I didn’t feel confident, nor comfortable, stepping in to unfamiliar territory in this setting. But I did contribute, I guess, and still felt a nice part of it. There were quite a few of us in the small-ish space too, so we spread the tasks across the board.
I’m extremely impressed with the sound eventually obtained, and the quality of the tracks recorded - the tape added an interesting level of harmonics and served to tie the whole piece together - it’s like a glue that connects all the parts with common character.
The Studer a80 tape machine at Soundpark
It was amazing in general to have had the experience of recording analog, it was humbling to think that for many years in music production this WAS the method of recording! Not just a creative decision, a nostalgic novelty or learning curve. I liked the thought that so much of the music I listen to and love today was recorded in this manner. It has formed in me a real love and appreciation for this form of recording.
It was interesting to try to maintain the thought that back then, that WAS the track - there was no digitally recording to Pro Tools, being able to 'command-s' - I think we take for granted how easy it is to safeguard what we record these days, using DAWs. It’s added security using tape nowadays to be able to coincide with a digital program like Pro Tools.
This tape experience was wonderfully tied in to an awesome trip to Zenith Records, vinyl pressing facility. It was so absolutely cool to even be inside the place, let alone learn how all the technology and equipment works, and be given a tour around to all the different machinery and see it in action. As someone who listens to and enjoys records, it was entertaining and intriguing to see how the process worked from the beginning. I liked knowing that these processes were the original ways of recording and printing and sharing music - yes we’ve moved beyond these ways with technological advances, but there is, and I think there will always be, a sentimental attachment to vinyl as an art form (and understandably, because it is beautiful really). Being able to literally see the grooves, and having seen them being carved was amazing. It’s music visible, it’s tactile, it’s physical, and I think that’s something we can’t surpass no matter new technologies, with whatever innovations in quality they provide. It’s vinyl’s genuine character that cannot be replaced.
(A video our teacher Dave shared with us that I absolutely love, mainly because of vinyl but also because of Jack White and the yellow) -
YouTube URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7IgL32FGu0&t=4s
These type of opportunities within and throughout my audio education at SAE have helped me discover what real-world experiences are present in the field of audio, and see how what I am learning is significant in everyday life. It is very exciting really, and I look forward to any more chances to have similar experiences.