Owen Hall Recording Studio offers Tigers valuable opportunity
“Ah, it’s leaking,” said student engineer Scott Nelson ’18, moving various knobs on the mixing desk in front of him.
The composition major eyed the four musicians in the room to his left through a glass window, his mind running through possible solutions to a problem I was not yet privy to.
Sensing my ignorance, Nelson explained the issue through demonstration. While the band continued to play through a composition by Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet Fellow Zane DeBord ’17, Nelson clicked on one bar running across the computer screen in front of us.
Suddenly, the saxophone of Luke Colbert ’16 came over the speakers loud and clear. Then Nelson clicked again, and the sounds of drummer Micah Vogel ’19 rose above the other instruments. He did the same for DeBord, whose electric bass then dominated the speakers.
Finally, he clicked on the microphone in front of flutist Laila Meneesh ’19, but the isolated flute could hardly be heard over the rest of the instruments.
“That is leakage,” Nelson explained. “The other instruments are ‘bleeding’ into Laila’s microphone.”
Once the jazz quartet finished their take and Nelson stopped recording, the student engineer set up a sort of sound-absorbing barrier behind the flutist, preventing the sounds of the other instruments from bouncing off the wall behind her and into her microphone.
Nelson had found a solution to the problem, and I was given a taste of the exciting opportunities provided at the Owen Hall Recording Studio.
Approaching its ten-year anniversary in operation, the Owen Hall Recording Studio is an academic research facility that is full of high-quality recording equipment and software. The studio is fed by a course called Sound Recording Fundamentals (MMGT106), a course which provides students with an understanding of the basics of microphones and the recording software program Pro Tools.
For those students who do well in MMGT106, they have an opportunity to apply for a more advanced course called Recording Studio Production (MMGT160). Scott Nelson, the student engineer who gave me a lesson in the studio, is one of a few students enrolled in the high-level class. And while he is gaining valuable experience by serving as an engineer for those who record at the studio, he stressed that the Owen Hall studio is beneficial to more than just students of the Conservatory of Music.
“This is a great opportunity that not enough people take advantage of,” Nelson said. He was referring to the fact that the Owen Hall Recording Studio is actually open to all people associated with the University: students, faculty, staff, and alumni of any discipline are all welcome and encouraged to record their ideas at the studio—for free.
Professor Jeffrey Crawford is the instructor of both MMGT106 and MMGT160, and he explained how Tigers of all backgrounds can take advantage of this mutually beneficial relationship.
“We have the advanced producers in the class assemble in a production meeting, and we discuss what is coming into the studio. At that time, we ask people to come present their projects,” Professor Crawford said. “Most of the time it’s a small, written outline that details what you want to do, how many people are involved, what the instrumentation is (if it’s a musical project), how many songs you are looking to record, what style, how you want it recorded, etc..”
“Some people come in with beats; they layer the beats down and add a synthesizer bass, electric bass, or acoustic bass. We want to know all of that, how the project, in their mind, is being developed.”
Professor Crawford, who first came to Pacific as the Production Director at KUOP in 1987, said that music is not the only thing recorded at Owen Hall. One Pacific staff member recently took advantage of the opportunity to record a reading of an audiobook at a satellite studio in Owen Hall. In another example, a student could record his or her idea for the pilot episode of a podcast in the building.
Whatever it is one may want to record, Professor Crawford made it clear that the value of a complimentary session at the Owen Hall Recording Studio is quite remarkable.
“An equivalent production studio like the one we have here at the University would cost around 75 to 80 dollars an hour,” Professor Crawford said. “We do not sell commercial time, but we can offer alums, staff, faculty and students a high level of performance and recording capability, all while providing training to our students.”
The studio is full of high-quality microphones, speakers, monitors, computers, synthesizers, and software programs. The equipment is a mix of devices purchased by the University, and personal possessions that Professor Crawford has acquired over the years and put toward bettering his students’ educational experience.
“Anybody can sit with a laptop and play with Pro Tools and Logic and make cool sounds and beats. But not everybody is playing with analog patchable synthesizers from 1982, or a Minimoog from 1976. That’s why the equipment is here; I want them to experience this.”
Although he does not take them out for student use too often, Professor Crawford also has some much rarer modular synthesizers that were hand-crafted by legendary engineer Bob Moog. Simply put, the studio is a fantastic environment for learning and developing recording skills.
While students in MMGT 106 and 160 get to experience this environment on the daily, one should keep in mind that the experience is not exclusive. The Owen Hall Recording Studio provides a great opportunity for a high-quality recording session that is available to all Tigers, free of charge.
Because Conservatory and PAC-AVE Records students begin scheduling more sessions later in the semester, students and staff interested in submitting proposals to record at Owen Hall should contact Professor Crawford as early in the semester as possible. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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