Welcome to CLC Audio Production Course. I began my journey into audio production as a teenager in 1989 when a friend left his 4-Track cassette recorder in a basement rehearsal space. I toyed with the faders, plugged in my guitar, and pressed the red flashing button marked “record.” I listened to the playback, quickly wrote a second guitar part, and repeated the steps. That process of writing, playing, recording, and mixing my own music enthralled me. From that moment forward, I was hooked on audio production.
Since then, I’ve spent much of my adult life working in recording studios, mixing live sound, and living inside my headphones thinking about all the different kinds of production techniques used to create interesting music. My hope is that I can share what I’ve learned and connect students to educational resources that will build a basic knowledge of audio production.
This course is designed to help beginners get a feel for what audio production is, while also helping more advanced students expand their own production skills. I’ve organized this class into three units that hopefully lead students towards the final project: designing a home studio.
Unit One: Microphones, Mixing Boards, Cables, and Speakers
Unit Two: History of Audio Recording, Pro Tools Recording Software/Mixing a Session, Types of Audio Files, and Mastering
Unit Three: Session Psychology, Recording on a Budget, Acoustic Room Treatments, and Designing a Home Studio Space
Learning Outcomes: Upon completion, students should have the ability to-
- Properly use microphones and p.a. equipment to mix a live audio event
- Operate Pro Tools or other related recording software/hardware to produce a small audio project
- Differentiate between audio formats and have the ability to convert one audio file to another
- Understand acoustic room treatments, recording budgets, and basic designs of home studio spaces
One of the first things I’d like to share is that when I’m working on a project, I rarely think of myself as an audio producer. To me, music producer is a loaded phrase with some negative connotations from my own experiences working in over-priced, industrial studio settings.
What I’m really doing, whether it’s recording an acoustic guitar, making electronic beats, mixing a live band, or editing a podcast, is this: I am simply managing sound. I take sounds created and manage them in organized ways for a particular listener. I’ve learned that not every project needs to be surgically produced on corporate budget. Sometimes a project only requires a clean and honest sound to have the desired result. When presented with a new audio production job, I often look at what the end goal is. Am I helping a friend to make a quality demo? Am I being hired to cost-effectively run a small studio project? Maybe the job calls for better, professional-style gear because it’s for a larger broadcast audience. Each scenario requires me to use different tools and devote a certain amount of creativity energy to accomplish it. However, in each case, I am still managing sound for a particular type of listener.
Keep in mind, a great performance can be magical, but effective sound-management takes some know-how to audibly capture that magic. Welcome to Audio Production!
So, where do we begin when we want to capture those magic sounding moments? For me, I always start by applying a three pillar approach. Students should try to incorporate these three pillars into every project to get the best results in audio production.
Pillar One: The Technical:
- What is being used? What are the components? How does it work? What is it compatible with?
- What do the specifications, instructions, and charts mean?
- Is it being used in a safe and proper way?
Pillar Two: The Method:
- How is it being used?
- Are there different ways to to apply it?
- Why is it being used this way?
- What are the budgetary, practical, and socio-economic reasons for using it?
Pillar Three: The Creative Approach:
- What Principals of Artistic Design are being used (Contrast, Rhythm, Repetition, Flow, Proximity, Alignment, Balance, Emphasis and Proportion)?
- Is it original?
- Is the emotional input being heard in the output?
- Does it feature Aesthetic Honesty?
Every project requires some use of all three pillars. For example, when mixing a band on a digital audio workstation you will need to know technical details for assigning microphone inputs; you will need to incorporate different methods of microphone placement; and you will need to a creative approach when balancing your mix to produce a signature sound. You don’t have to be an expert in all three pillars, but the more knowledge and experience you gain concerning all three will give you the biggest toolbox to work with. I will go back to these pillars time and time again throughout this course to point out how they can help improve your audio production projects.