”Envianos tus fotos y videos y contanos que te pareció el show al que fuiste”
Dear fans, as we’ve been mentioning lately, Alan Parsons is on these days news as he will be featuring his Alan Parsons Live Project show on South America cities of Belo Horizonte, San Pablo, Río de Janeiro, Santiago de Chile, Rosario y Buenos Aires.(see more)
In this article we won’t be talking about his musician career but about his role as a worldwide known sound engineer, and what better way to do it than recalling his Buenos Aires Masterclass on September, 2012.
For those who don’t know, Alan, along many renowned collaborators such as Julian Colbeck, recently released an amazing program known as ASSR (Art – Sound – Science – Recording) that brings sound enthusiasts the chance of learning to develop recording projects at a highly competitive musical level. The program takes place online (and is also distributed in DVDs), where Alan, and important producers and musicians add their whole knowledge to it.
ASSR covers every basic sound concept, from micro phoning techniques to analog and digital consoles, compressors, equalizers, building and creating the acoustics of a recording room, and it even includes an innovative online remote recording. For those of us who went through the program, not only covered vital concepts, but surprisingly told us how Alan applied them through his career. As an example, when speaking of consoles, Alan is sitting by the TG12345, the same console used on the “The Dark Side of the Moon” recording. It gives you goose bumps just to hear it. Associated collaborators’ advices about the artistic side of the subject add up very important information. Finally, an online test lets you know how much you learned and which aspects you should improve on.
Alan mixing The Dark Side of the Moon
The second crucial matter for us is that Alan takes the possibilities to our reach, mainly at this part of the world, where buying technology is lately expensive and complicated. Although the lessons feature thousand-dollar microphones and consoles, it avoids letting you down by showing that with modern technology and a low budget you are capable of doing a really good work. He even uses his work with The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and many others in the 70s where he had to overcome technological limitations as an example. Hard to believe isn’t it? But let’s check it better by talking about practice.
EVERYTHING ABOUT THE “MASTERCLASS”
On September, 2012, and thanks to Mercedes Onorato and “Indio” Gauvron from Sound Pro Latin America efforts, I was able to assist to a full session of recording and mixing at the “El Pie” studio, to perform the song “Una cancion de Amor” with Argentinean musician Alejandro Lerner (a long time Pink Floyd fan) and his band. Alan showed up at the studio with his 1,90m height and a Californian jacket with English punctuality just to find 40 local specialists on the subject waiting for him.
He didn’t have much trouble finding his way with Alejandro Lerner (who he defined as an Argentinean Elton John) as how they will perform the recording process, and the direction they would give to the song. Next came the microphone pickings (AKG C1414 y C451, Neumann U67 y U87, Sennheiser MD 421 btween others), and the channel set up assisted by two studio workers. It hadn’t been an hour and he had already given dozens of answers to our inquiries, along with many advices and warnings for avoiding mistakes. Of course, everything based on his unaccountable hours of experience on these activities.
Guitar, Bass, and rhythmical Drums tracks recording started over a pre-recorded session of the song brought by Alejandro, in which Alan put down some intentional difficulties (such as leaving the guitar amplifier’s door room opened to get the noise into the drums ambience microphone), which he later showed wouldn’t become a problem on the mix.
Along came the keyboards, starting with Alejandro’s old piano (staying at the “El Pie” studio for many years already). But Alan couldn’t wrap it up that way, so he proposed, to Alejandro’s surprise, using a Hammond keyboard instead. Of course, nobody had a problem with the idea, so we went straightaway to setting up its microphones. For me, being accounted with the instrument thanks to the Symphonic and Progressive genre, made me stand right away next to the Leslie box. Things ended up with me working beside Alan, helping him setting them up, an unforgettable moment of my life only compared to my children’s birth. When Alejandro started playing, we were all surprised by the quality of the sound played.
Alan showing his preferences for a drum recording
Finally came guitar solos, recorded many times and later used simultaneously on different channels, and main and backing vocal tracks, again with righteous suggestions by Alan. By that time, we were already down to 200 questions, with him answering every single one of them with detailed luxury, never taking his hands off the mixer.
Mixing started by the afternoon, with his assistant’s hands flying between his Mac and his racks, setting up and doing everything as Alan asked. While this happened, and encouraged by Alejandro Lerner himself, our questions (some of them “mythical”) started to fly across the room, focusing on his work with Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Piramyd, etc. He surprisingly answered all of them. Did you happen to know that after “The Dark Side of the Moon” he refused joining Pink Floyd with the goal to focus on his career with the Alan Parsons Project? Amazing isn’t it? The band had to go on with Brian Humphries for Wish You Were Here.
Along the Masterclass, a camera got every detail of Alan handling the mixer. As this happened, he explained the meaning of everything he was doing. In the night, the rough mix got to 90% of his production. As expected, the results were outstanding. We heard the song at least 4 times, and everyone, including Alejandro, seemed convinced. As an additional fact, Alan uses very few production effects, some good compressors and equalizers, and prefers doing a good job micro phoning than fixing or compensating errors. That explains the sound of everything he has been involved with, in which the instruments are perfectly isolated, clean, and with a natural reverb given by the recording’s own room.
A final applause for the master, who besides doing a truly professional work, answered more than 150 questions through the 10 hour session. Along came photos, autograph signing and a final goodbye.
It’s remarkable how a professional like him dedicates a quite big part of his time to this kind of teaching, sharing his whole experience and encouraging musicians and producers to do a good job, even in the lack of good resources, by doing so. Thank you Alan, we will never forget that day.
Alan and Gustavo from Rocksinfonico.com
To conclude, my amazing personal experience and story with Alan Parsons:
A few days before the Masterclass, I took a Copa Airlines flight to get back to Buenos Aires. Already seated, by chance, I recognize Alan Parsons and his wife, Lisa, seating two seats away from mine. Seconds prior to take off, an elder woman faints and the pilot needs to stop departure. Alan, worried about the incident, asked the crew about the situation, and in my Argentinean quickness reaction, I volunteer as a translator for the couple. When things calmed down and the plane stood by on the hangar to give the paramedics the chance to enter in a plane, I humbly tell him about my work as an engineer. He told me he hadn’t had formal studies, that he had worked on the golden ages of Abbey Road collaborating with famous professionals, experimenting with everything he could, and doing his own research by reading. He then asked me about my recording equipment, to my astounding, as I thought me having just a 16 channel mixer couldn’t put up with anything he had ever used on his work. He then introduced me into the concept of his ASSR program, making me realize I probably have more resources now than he had on the 70s. He suggested I experimented with everything by my reach, just as he did, an idea I still carry on up to this day. The next 40 minutes of the talking were about his career, his band, and subjects from The Beatles and Pink Floyd to his last job, on which I may add some details on a further article on the future.
I have to thank his advices, as after that day, I read lots of information, got to seminars, and even calculated and built my own recording room by those premises with a considerate budget. I started getting results I could have never imagined, and I know feel lucky I could get at least 10% of the “magic” of his work.