Zen of Recording


As my flight lifts off from the Baton Rouge runway, a silvery trickle of sunlight glints along the plane’s wing (of which I have a perfect view) and suddenly splashes into my eyes with the blinding sting of organic hotel shampoo. Lying back, I think about the events from the last two days and wonder if I’ll ever be able to digest all of the info and experiences I feasted on like Thursday’s jambalaya…

Regular readers of this column know that in addition to the techniques and philosophies discussed here, we also cover a lot of different gear from a variety of manufacturers. Microphones to headphones, keyboards to plug-ins; if it helps you make better music and recordings we try to cover it. That said, there are a few companies whose products have been featured here numerous times. None more so than those from PreSonus (www.presonus.com).

Most recently, we looked at their StudioLive 16.0.2 mixer and StudioOne 2 digital audio workstation software. We highlighted these particular products for three specific reasons: the amount of power being placed into the hands of the “average” musician or recordist, the company’s very reasonable price points and the ingenuity and elegance with which their solutions are rendered.

When I heard they were hosting a two-day event called PreSonusphere, an interactive conference where users would not only attend information-drenched presentations and receive hands-on training with PreSonus’ line of mixers and software solutions, but would actually be able to interact with the developers of these products as well, I knew I had to go.

After an early morning walk spent exploring the picturesque streets around Louisiana’s state capital, a gaze across the Mississippi and a good, old-fashioned southern-style breakfast (Where y’at, Christine’s?!), I headed over to the Shaw Center for the first panel, “Breakfast with the Chiefs”. As we were introduced to CEO Jim Mack, CSO Jim Odom and CTO Bob Tudor, it was notable that even the “suits” at PreSonus are all actively gigging musicians. As featured speaker and home recording Moses Craig Anderton so aptly put it, “It seems like the R&D process at PreSonus is, ‘Hey guys, I’ve got a gig tonight and I could really use a box that can…’”

That message of We Are You resonated loudly and consistently throughout all of PreSonusphere’s presentations. In the weeks leading up to the event, I had recently changed over to using StudioOne 2 as my main DAW. I’d brought with me several pages of notes I’d accumulated with regard to little feature tweaks that could in my opinion, be either added, improved upon or streamlined in some way. I brought them to the panel entitled StudioOne 2 and Beyond where I was able to interact directly with lead developers Mathias Juwan and Wolfgang Kundrus. There was great patience and thoughtfulness in their responses to all the suggestions offered by others and myself; as if they implicitly understood that we make these proposals because we love their products so much. Mathias even took another look over my list and requested a copy!

Generosity of knowledge is an honorable thing in an industry where competition is so infamously fierce. Each and every one of the presenters I saw were great with fielding questions on the fly. Many were very entertaining, even hilarious! Melodyne’s Ray Williams made presentations that were part game show, part stand-up routine, and part sorcery, introducing new harmonies into an a capella performance and a classic recording by the Jackson 5. Craig Anderton’s mastering seminars were equally engaging, chock full of zany humor and enlightening asides. He often reached outside of the PreSonus-centric box and into the realm of general mastering approaches, as well as other tips and tricks. NYC producer Fab Dupont also displayed a crack wit and keen ear, quickly building a dense pop mix whilst simultaneously demystifying concepts like parallel compression and creative equalization.

Elsewhere, miking and live sound were covered via presentations on line checks, sound checks, monitor mixing (including in-ears), tracking, troubleshooting… all taking place in a venue-like environment, with all the acoustical challenges that accompany it. Yes, there were technical gremlins at a few panels (no video/sound, mono sound, missing plugins, the rambly guys from NimBit, etc. ), but all were quickly and cheerfully handled with polite and efficient southern aplomb by the predictably skilled support staff.

Upstairs, several StudioOne music computer workstations populated The Gallery, which was staffed with StudioOne “gurus”… This facilitated not only interactive, “click-along” presentations (which mostly focused on familiarizing oneself with the interface and work flow), but provided the opportunity for one-on-one dynamic interaction. I probably don’t need to stress how great an opportunity it was to have someone show me “how to fish” in such a simple, direct, and tactile manner.

In short: I got my learn on in a very big way.

Of course, being that it was Louisiana, I got entertained as well. Locals Trouble with the Funk performed a riveting horn-driven set that was recorded and remixed during the next day’s panels. Another local favorite (and officially the friendliest person I’ve ever met), Chris LeBlanc graciously opened his sound check as an educational presentation and then proceeded to hold his own blues guitar master class… in concert.

The performances that stay with me most though, are the ones from the previously mentioned “suits” at Presonus. Each of those guys could play. I mean like, really well. Watching them join their friends onstage, singing and playing their butts off and seemingly having the time of their lives showed us the true face of PreSonus; a company by musicians for musicians.

They had me at the jambalaya.

Sven-Erik Seaholm is an award-winning independent record producer, singer, and songwriter. He sends shouts out to his University of Barnes and Nobel Professors: Craig Anderton, Steve O, Larry the O, Mike Metlay, and Connor Freff Cochran… Discography: www.kaspro.com

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