THE REEL AUDIO COURSE

Accepting participants now for 08-09
Call (506) 450-3299 to get started.

Juno Award winning producer/engineer Lloyd Hanson is offering an intensive music, audio engineering, production, studio musician, arranging, music psychology, guitar maintenance and entrepreneurial recording studio owner course to run parallel to the 08-09 university year (and I may only do it once!).

In the past few years, I have been approached many times about the possibility of offering a record production/audio course. All the people that have inquired have asked me to provide great detail when I write it up for posting on the web. You asked for detail and you’re going to get it.

In the following document, I am going to state a number of very strong opinions. These are the brutally honest opinions of a professional musician with 27 years experience and a recording/mixing and mastering engineer, NB’s most accomplished record producer and owner/operator of Reel North Recording Studio since 1988, who has successfully completed over 140 productions, mastered over twice that may and did well enough to enter semi-retirement at age 39!

It is my opinion that most “recording schools” are ‘way too much like “school” and not at all like real life, which is partially why so few graduates ever work at a professional level. T.R.A.C. will be very different.

Most “recording schools” want to know two things: 1) Do you have a pulse?, and, 2) Do you have the money? I want to know a lot more than that!

I’ve talked to a dozen or so people in the last year and a half, and much to my surprise, the first question is always, “What kind of certificate or accreditation will I (participant) end up with? I’ll answer this with the kind of honest candour I practice: (To a perspective participant) I haven’t met you, heard you play, know what your background, experience, talent, work ethic, goals or aptitudes are, and you want me to tell you exactly where you will end up? Impossible! I’m not promising anyone they will make a living at music production because no one can promise you that. So here is what I do promise you.

I’m looking for 4-5 talented, driven, smart, moral, honest and self-motivated folks who love music and would do anything to see if they have what it takes to be a producer/engineer. I will run this class for 4 or 5 participants. I have picked this number because 5 is maximum number that I can effectively mentor at once. I know this because I’ve been doing it with young bands for 15 years.

I’m the first person to point out that the Reel Audio Course is definitely not for everyone. For example: If you wish to be an engineer only, and not an evolved musician and producer then TRAC is not for you. If you wish to specialize as a pro tools operator, not for you. If you thought you’d move to Fredericton,, take it easy, hang out with your friends and take some courses to get your parents off your back, then this is like so totally not for you that you should quit reading this and go back to your video game. However, if you’ve been obsessed with music for years and you would work hours and hours a day for 8 months to see if you have what it takes to make great records, then read on.

Let’s examine the job title. What is a producer/engineer anyway? A pro level producer/engineer is a unique combination of many things: 1: A highly developed musician, playing many instruments and singing as well as programming drum machines, samples etc., and who has experience and expertise in multiple styles of music. 2) An evolved arranger who can hear a whole band in their head even after hearing a rough demo once, and who knows how to gather the right ingredients. 3) Recording engineer. 4) Mix engineer (very different job) 5) Teacher. 6) coach. 7) Psychologist (therapist) and finally, an entrepreneur. Think I’ve covered it all? Actually, I’ve saved the most important and overlooked skill for last. They must be exceptional listeners – able to hear what their clients are really saying and playing, able to detect and analyze in great detail the recordings their clients give them, able to hear the slightest defect in a sound they are recording or technical glitches, able to focus their hearing like a microscope on the slightest detail of one specific aspect of a mix, fix the problem, then go immediately back to the big picture, able to listen to many sounds and musical parts simultaneously to make sure they sonically, rhythmically and harmoniously contribute to what is best for the song.

At this point, I could write a very long tirade telling you of all my accomplishments, but that would just come across as bragging and arrogance so I won’t do that but I will touch on a few points to give you an idea of how I stack up to my own description of a producer/engineer. I am one of the most versatile and accomplished bass players in Atlantic Canada playing most styles of music on fretted and fretless basses for over 27 years. (See music lessons – bass lessons or C. V. for details). As a multi-instrumentalist, many times while producing a CD I’ve hired the drummer and done everything else myself.

I will use others words to “accreditate”: myself as the province’s leading contemporary music producer. Sound Initiate is New Brunswick’s music biz funding division started in 97. They have assembled “task forces” of “music professionals” twice, once in 97 and again in 2004. I was the only person to be on both committees.

By 2004, I was already into my sabbatical education period (which I’ll explain later) and was admittedly a little out of touch with what was going on in “the scene”, so I asked the other 7 or 8 people, “Who exactly are the professional producers in the province with proven track records? And who consistently does good work? They all named me, which was fine, but I wasn’t fishing for compliments, so I pressed them, “There must be others?” One lady named Richard Gibson, a composer and professor at U de M who I am proud to call a friend and have great respect for and he does sometimes produce but almost exclusively in the classical genre. Between all of them, they could name no one else.

As a recording, mixing and mastering engineer, I encourage you to listen to my work, compare it to anything at any price and ask around about my reputation. A recent “full-scale” CD I made was for the rock group, “Sheltered”. Most people that have heard it say it is probably the best rock production they’ve heard in N. B. and on the radio and some small blasters it sounds better than most major label recent releases – judge for yourself.

As an entrepreneur, I got my ACOA grant at 23 with no formal business training and opened Reel North that year. I’ve single handedly raised production standards in this province, have nothing but completely satisfied clients, have gotten every single grant I’ve ever applied for as a producer, artist and studio owner and was debt-free and semi-retired by age 39 – any questions?

Some of you may be thinking, “Well, this all sounds great. Obviously Lloyd is very accomplished in his field, but what are his teaching qualifications?” Very fair question, so I’ll address that.

  • I’ve been giving bass and guitar (music theory) lessons on and off for 24 years.
  • One of the most important aspects of being an effective producer is the role of teacher. Most of my clients flatter and honour me by citing me as their most important music teacher.
  • In the late 90’s, I was approached by two young men (at different times) who had graduated from audio schools in Hamilton and Montreal. One was from Woodstock, the other from Edmundston, both were applying for jobs at the studio.

After a few basic questions about signal routing, it was obvious these guys had very little practical knowledge about studio recording, which was, of course, very disappointing to them. I made them this offer, I will charge $xxxx to bring you up-to-date and you will work at this studio as my assistant for 3 months and immerse yourself into the life style of professional record production, and I guarantee you this: At the end of this apprenticeship you will know whether this is for you or not. I was working constantly during those years with CD projects from end to end as far as the eye could see. (Check CV for details.)In the end ,both decided this life was not for them.

Lynn Morrison, a single mom with extensive live sound experience started to work as my assistant in late 98. She quickly became a very efficient assistant engineer and with my mentorship and her own dedication and hard work, became a fully qualified recording engineer in a few years. Lynn acted as the second recording engineer on projects at Reel North where the artist or group acted as their own producer. She was also hired by C. A. T. A C. to be the instructor of the “pro studio”, part of their recording arts program which took place here at Reel North.

In January of 1999, I was asked to teach the “Digital Audio” Course, a part of the multi-media program at the University of New Brunswick. I entered under very turbulent circumstances because the first instructor they hired did not work out and then a number of the students requested me by name (much to my surprise). So I go in the first night and after introducing myself, put on a CD, turned out the lights and asked the student next to me to tell the others and me every thing they heard. This went on for an hour or so, then I turned the lights back on and asked them, “So, folks, what are your expectations and goals for this course?” They were stunned. No instructor had ever asked them what they wanted and it turned out that many had projects in other courses that audio played a part in. So I said, “Let’s make this course about making the audio for your other projects the best it can be. They thought that was great. (Less like school, more like life.)

So I went to the assistant dean and asked him to rent a cassette 4-track, 2 mics, an 8 channel mixer, a cassette deck to mix down on and the appropriate cables, stands, etc. Total cost around $1300 for the duration of the term. He turned me down flat and explained that many of the students were idealistic and expected the world to be handed to them and that all they expect from me was to give them some academic info and test them on it. I told him that I had talked to the students and that they had many concerns about the program that I believed were valid and that if he didn’t agree to this, then I’d quit.

In the end, he agreed, and I’m thrilled to report that many students took their minimal equipment, what I taught them, and their own hard work and turned in projects which they recorded and mixed their own dialog, music and sound effects that would rival most CBC radio plays!

I would later find out that my standing up for them to the administration started a small revolution that affected much of the multi media program.

John Born was one of the students in my ”Digital Audio” course at U. N. B. who requested that I be hired to replace the original teacher. John and I are friends and have collaborated on a few musical/recording projects and have performed together in jazz ensembles. Following his graduation from the multi media program at U. N. B., John took my 3-month recording/immersion program. This was the same type of experience that the two guys from Edmundston and Woodstock went through with me. After completing his training here at Reel North, John secured full-time employment with a local multi media company as an audio engineer and he would eventually teach the Digital Audio Course at U. N. B. himself.

So there you have it. Four students – 2 obtained professional employment in the field. So far as an audio instructor, I’m batting 500.

C.A.T.A.C.

Because I am offering T.R.A.C. in Fredericton, and because I know how active the rumour mill is in my hometown, I wish to state for the record my own opinions before some people fabricate my views.

I wish to state for the record that Reel North and I have benefited greatly from C.A.T.A.C. being in Fredericton. You see, for the first few years they rented the studio and hired Lynn as the instructor for the Pro Studio part of their program. The money they spent here in no small part helped fund my education/sabbatical. (I worked much less from 03-06. In this time, I walked over 12 km a day and read over 300 books}.

I wish also to state for the record that I have the highest respect for Kevin Herring as a recording engineer and an honourable man. I have known Kevin since 1983, have worked with him on multiple projects and am proud to call him a trusted friend.

When I was setting up Reel North in 1988, the generous advice of Kevin and fellow C.A.T.A.C. instructor, Allan Edwards, was invaluable, so I publicly state my gratitude.

No doubt, some will try to pit us against each other, but I assure that you while possibly competing in the broadest sense, what I am offering here is a completely different thing than is offered at CATAC. They are as different as a boat and a motorcycle.

I’ve gotten to know a number of the students attending CATAC when they were here at the studio and most seemed like nice kids, but with all due respect, 80% of them would never be able to keep up with the intensity and pace of what I have in mind.

QUALIFICATIONS

You have to be a musician to take this course, hopefully at an intermediate level of development. (Vocalists, drummers and DJs can be musicians.) It is my hope to gather a diversified group with no more than 2 players of the same instrument, which probably means a number of guitar players and bass players competing for these spots. I need a demo showcasing your abilities (recording and playing). Please write a detailed account of your musical experience and a detailed account of your long-range career goals and your expectations for this course. We will schedule an appointment for you to deliver the aforementioned application package and when you deliver it, I’ll show you the studio, play you some of my work and answer any questions you have. (Please make a list). I’ll have many questions as well. These sessions, which I jokingly refer to as a mutual, interrogations last from 2-3 hours. I very much encourage one or both parents to attend this session. After processing your application, I'll notify you of my answer. If accepted, your spot is solidified when the first payment cheque clears. (See payment details.)

THE REEL AUDIO COURSE

After the deposit is received I will give you your copy of the main recording textbook we will be using. (It is included in studio costs.) Your first major assignment will be to learn as much of it as possible before September, not just reading through, but learning – teaching yourself on your own initiative. This kind of responsibility will be an on-going theme in T.R.A.C. Of course, we will go over everything here, but if that can be more of thorough review and a confirmation of understanding, then we can get to the tasks of making great recordings together all the quicker.

For the first 4-5 weeks, we will alternate between music and the recording text. Music theory will focus on contemporary harmony, (Intervals, triads, 7th chords, harmonic extensions, scales, modes, chord/scale relationships, major and minor keys, etc. I will constantly give you musical examples to apply to your instrument as well. You will have a ton of homework for the first few months, both paper and practicing on your instruments many hours a day – I’m serious.

If there is a drummer, singer or DJ who becomes a participant, you will have to play guitar, keyboard or bass to do this work.

I have amassed a large library of music/recording books, 15 years of the best mix and EQ magazines and DVD music and production documentaries. I will prepare a cross-reference index over the summer for quick reference to say, for example, cool guitar recording articles. Instantly identifying all issues that apply to that topic. These will also be part of your homework. We will sometimes end the afternoon with watching a “classic album” documentary. There is a wealth of great stuff in those, especially with the right guide.

I’m optimistic we can get through this "classroom” portion of T.R.A.C. in about 5 weeks. In some cases, some participants may be called upon to tutor other participants. One of the best ways to reinforce what you already know is to teach it.

In the next 5-6 week block, we will move on to my music history portion of track. Building upon all we’ve learned to this point, we will now apply that knowledge to the overview of the history of modern music.

Music (History, theory and practical combined). From Bach to System Of A Down and most major contributors in between. We will start by listening to a piece of music, then we will analyze it harmonically and rhythmically. In this, your homework would be to finish the analysis and learn to play the piece of your instrument. The piece of music could be a Bach cello suite one week and a Led Zepplin tune the next, and in all cases, we will dissect all there is to be learned from that recording, that performance, that style and that piece. Then we will recreate it by playing, recording, mixing and producing it in class combining listening, playing theory, production and engineering, which once again, is much less like school and much more like a real life production environment.

RECORDING ENGINEER, PART II (beginning of practical)

So by now (6 weeks in) we have covered all the recording theory, it is time to begin to apply it. Participants will start off with a very simple set-up. A 16 ch. Mackie Mixing board, 3 mics, an Alexsis HD24 Hard disc recorder, 4 channels of analog out board compression and appropriate cables, stands, etc. You see it is another strong opinion of mine that taking students directly from the classroom to the full pro studio is a mistake because there are so many distractions. It is very difficult to maintain focus on listening to the sounds and the music and operate 20 odd pieces of high tech gear simultaneously, so starting with a simple set-up is a much better idea. Anyone I know who is good at producing/recording started with next to nothing and made it work. You learn so much more this way. The aforementioned “studio” is much higher quality gear than I made the first 25 or 30 albums on.

We will start with a simple voice-over and when that is mastered, we will move on to the guitar vocal demo, and toward the end of this section, we will make full demos with a couple of rock bands that the participants will find. There will be no cost to the bands for these preliminary demo recordings, but a nominal mastering fee will apply if they want to use it for something. Participants will be given extra studio time to individually work on mixing these recordings, then we will analyze and critique them together.

Believe, me if you start with a simple set-up, you appreciate the high quality gear a lot more when you get to it and you already have some idea how to proceed because of what you’ve already learned.

Rounding out the first term will be the first stage of the entrepreneurial portion of T.R.A.C. will break down into sections:

  • Most participants will want to assemble /purchase their own portable studios so we will address how to buy gear, from where, and most importantly purchasing pieces of equipment that are compatable with each other.
  • All aspects of dealing with clients
  • Filling out grant applications and getting the grants. As I stated earlier, I’ve gotten every grant I’ve ever applied for as an artist, a producer, (dozens of projects) and as an entrepreneur, owner of Reel North.

I’ve also taught many of my clients how to successfully get grants. One client in particular got so good at it that I hire him out to other clients to help them with their grant proposals. He also has gotten all grants he has applied for and is now a professional accountant. To be completely honest, he could not even write a cheque when I met him, and he would be the first to tell you that I never did any of the work for him. I did make myself available to answer any and all questions, and most importantly, I told him I had every faith in his ability to accomplish his goals. The individual has already been booked to give an intensive one-day seminar about half way through the first term of T.R.A.C., so in the first term you’ll be applying for grants to fund the projects you’ll be doing in the second term and beyond.

SECOND TERM

After Christmas, we move into the studio full time. Classroom and anything that remoting resembles school is over. From here on, it’s learning how to produce and engineer records, (5-6 weeks) and then doing it with paying clients. You see we will not be giving away studio time in the second term. I’ve witnessed free studio time as prizes for contests, and in the recording school scenario many times, and it is my strong opinion that it is a flawed concept. Why?

  • When people get something for nothing, they have no great expectations
  • They don’t prepare, bands show up late, often unrehearsed, old cruddy strings on guitars and basses, old heads on out of tune drums, etc. AND
  • With their minds made up that, “This won’t be any good. These students are just kids. They have only been training a few months. How could they know what they are doing? So we (the band) won’t take it seriously.”

Well, that’s not the way T.R.A.C. will work at all!!!

We will be charging singer/song writers and bands nominal fees (significantly less than half-price) for studio time. The minute you charge someone anything ($10/hr or $100/hr) everything changes. They expect something for their hard-earned cash. They take it seriously, properly prepare and have expectations. This will put a lot more pressure on the participants, which is a great advantage because you can’t fail. Failure is not an option, and trust me, you will be ready. Do you really think that I’m going to entrust the reputation of Reel North and hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment that I own to people who don’t know what they’re doing. I don’t think so. You will be ready. Count on it!

Now I’ll explain how I will train you to be ready. Participants will learn and appreciate how important it is to create great sounds in front of the mics and on the sending end of a D.I. because really, if the sound and the performance are not great, then isn’t being able to record it academic? Creating great sounds will be an on-going theme all through second term.

DRUM SOUNDS

To get great drum sounds, you have to learn about drums and what makes a great sounding drum kit before you record it. I will hire a professional drummer to come into the studio for 2 days and I will show you multiple miking techniques, how to use EQ and compression and when not to. You will learn how to recreate the Led Zeppelin drum sound, Metallica drum sound and many others too numerous to list here.

GUITAR SOUNDS

To get great guitar sounds you have to learn about guitars, acoustic and electric, and amplifiers. When you go through the Reel North equipment list, you’ll see that I own many great guitars and amps; recent additions are a Music Man Axis Supersport, the perfect modern electric to round out the Les Paul Custom and American Fender Strat already there. Participants will learn the features, sounds and differences between Fender, Gibson and hot rod type guitars, about different pickups and how to adjust all the controls of the amps as well. (I’ve got a great amp collection!) You’d be surprised to learn that in the real world, the recording engineers are ones setting the amps, suggesting different guitars, combining amps together, etc. to get great guitar sounds. You will have to know more about guitars and amps than most guitar players and I can show you that, which brings me to the next point.

GUITAR TECH

Many of you were probably surprised to see this subject at the top of this article, but I can’t tell you how many sessions have been saved because I was able to quickly adjust a guitar or bass. Imagine this scenario, you’re recording a band from out-of-town. They have all taken a few days off work. It’s at night and all music stores are closed and the guitar player’s instrument is fretting out like crazy on the first 7 frets. What do you do?.You see, if you’re going to be a real producer/engineer, then you are responsible for everything and you have to be able to do everything that the bands and artists can’t do for themselves. So all participants will be taught how to:

  • Make proper neck adjustments to guitars and basses
  • Set action and intonation (with and without a tuner
  • Most important of all: How to string a guitar properly!!

Most tuning problems stem from improper string installation. I have shown Juno-award winners how to string their guitars properly. Before I opened the Studio, I worked at Tony’s Music Box as the guitar repairman and I can’t tell you how many sessions have been saved because of my ability as a guitar tech, so I may as well pass it on to you.

Back to guitar sounds: Now that you know about guitars and how to set amplifiers, you can learn how to record great sounds because you can create great sounds. Participants will be taught all appropriate miking techniques, uses of EQ, compression and Gates, etc. further detail I will save for the course itself.

BASS SOUNDS

You guessed it, to get great bass sounds, you must learn about basses. I am first and foremost a bass player and many people have told me they can identify my productions from the overall clarity and the strong bass sounds.

I will cover features and characteristics of Fender (P and Jazz) Basses, Music Man, Rickenbacker, Neck thru body Exotic wood, active electronic. Fretted. Fretless and extended Range 5 and 6 string basses and applicable uses thereof. Fine attention will be paid to EQ and compression as small changes can have huge effects on such a big sounding instrument. We will also cover miking amplifiers and re amping direct signal to add some tube grit and distortion to an otherwise clean D. I. Signal. This is a staple of modern production.

I becoming aware of the extreme amount of information I’m writing here so I’m going to simplify the next few topics. Without offering the same amount of detail here, the following instruments will also be covered: Keyboards (Direct and amplified), banjo, mandolin, violin (lots of fiddle CDS in these parts), harmonica, horns and percussion.

VOCAL SOUNDS

The most intimate and complicated of all sounds/performances. There are so many parameters to address here from mic selection to how dark the room is to what kind of herbal tea works best for this singers throat, that I’m not even going to attempt to explain it in detail here. Rest assured all aspects will be covered.

CUE OF HEADPHONE MIXES

Participants will study the art of the headphone mix. The mix that the performer hears through his headphones is almost always completely independent from the one that you are listening to in the control room and nothing is more important than what they are hearing while they are being recorded. I will show you all considerations. For different instrumentalists and vocalists, how to get someone to play on the beat, ahead of the beat, or behind the beat, or if someone is singing flat or sharp can all depend on the headphone mix you give them. Reel North can offer up to four independent headphone mixes simultaneously.

PRODUCTION AND STUDIO MUSICIAN

To be a producer or studio musician, you must have a vast knowledge of many styles of music. Unfortunately, this knowledge is greatly lacking in most young musicians I have met in recent years, so I’ve come up with an interesting idea to give practical application and combination of music theory, production, music style development, recording engineering, arranging, programming, critical listening, mixing and studio musicianship.

10 VERSIONS OF ONE SONG IN DIFFERENT STYLES

We will take weeks one through 3 inclusive to accomplish what I’ve chronicled in the aforementioned “getting great sounds” tutorial. Then weeks four to seven will be spent doing 10 versions of one song. I’ve written the song and already have rough arrangements of it in the following styles: Mainstream pop, rock, metal, trad country, bluegrass, reggae, funk, hip hop, trad blues and rock blues (Led Zep). This extensive project will show the participants the similarities and differences between the styles. For example, did you ever notice how similar reggae and traditional county music are? The main difference is what the bass does – one of the thousands of things you will learn from the four weeks.

Keep in mind I don’t mean joke or parody versions, but great full productions true to the appropriate styles allowing the participant to apply all they have learned to this point and learn the gear of the studio while making great recordings. Participants will alternate jobs between producing, arranging, engineering, assisting mixing and playing the parts.

As a musician and singer, I am capable of hiring a live drummer and doing everything else myself in all ten versions. So, in all of those jobs you’ll be competing and juxtaposing your recording, playing and producing skills with mine. You may wonder, “is this fair to take the top producer in NB and compare his skills with the participants of track?” Maybe not, but who said the world was fair. When you’re done the course, you’re competing with the pros aren’t you? Tell you one thing – it will make you try a lot harder than you would if you were taking a test or doing a lab. Those things aren’t the real world. This will be and you’ll all be amazed how much you learn and develop in one month.

During the process of producing these ten versions of one song, the strengths and aptitudes of the individual students will manifest. One may be a versatile musician and arranger, but not a good mixing engineer, another may be great at combining samples and beats and a great mixer, but a weak player. From this point on, I will be instructing more to address the individuals to bring out in them what they are best at, just like I’ve been doing with bands for many years. I further predict at least one great production team will come out of these five participants.

PSYCHOLOGY (FOR RECORD PRODUCERS)

I believe the any veteran record producer deserves an honorary degree in psychology. It’s a very weird job. First of all you’re hired to be the boss. You run the show and are the last word in the literally thousands of decisions that are made in any given CD production from pre-production through mastering.

Making a CD with a band is a completely different experience than making one with a solo artist. A project with a male solo artist is a very different experience from a woman solo artist.

Guitar players could hardly be more different than drummers. Bass players are different again and singers? Well, I’ll tell you this much for now: A singer becomes a completely different person the second they take off their guitar and they are standing on stage, just them and the mic. I will lecture at length about this during the course.

ENTREPRENEUR/RECORDING STUDIO OWNER, PART II

This is a necessary continuation of the last category in how to deal with all financial aspects of clients, how to deal with banks, grant funding agencies, managers, record labels and agents. To buy or to rent? Do you want to build a home studio? If so, to serve what purpose? The goals and the needs of the participants will greatly dictate this portion of my instruction. So with all of the aforementioned second term recording instruction and the ten versions of one song from preproduction through final mixes should take us up to the college March break (especially if they continue to start in February.) So then what?

For the remainder of the term, participants will lead their own projects with their own clients. (Some of whom were successful in getting grants for their project that they applied for in the first term.) The student in charge will pick one other participant to be their main assistant and they can delegate, schedule and cast in to this plan any of the other participants or myself in to any of the roles needed. The participant in charge of any given project will also bear the bulk of the responsibility - just like the real world. This will be throwing the participants into the deep end of the pool with me serving as lifeguard. Real clients, real expectations, real life – not school.

I will sit down the participant and this client for the same kind of preliminary meeting that I’ve been having for years, then we will move on to preproduction, then production (which means recording), eventually ending the participant’s role with mixing.

MIXING

I believe aspects of recording can be put down on paper. I also believe to some extent, aspects of mastering and production can be accurately written about, but not mixing. Mixing is such a specific job with so many hundred parameters that I will not address that here in detail, but I will say that the only way to get better at it is to do it, analyse it, do it again, play it on multiple systems, compare it to other recordings in the genre, do it again, etc. Now I’d like to tell you a little story about the home recording boom: There are hundred of “Home Studios” in NB alone and you can imagine how many home recordings I’ve heard being a producer and a mastering engineer, so I’ going to give you by brutally honest opinion of most home recordings. Most people who have worked hard to build “Home Studios” are ok at literally recording, by that I mean capturing a performance via a mic or DI and storing it on their hard drive. With all due respect and a lot of empathy, what I hear very little evidence of is the ability to

  • pick good material
  • make suitable and flattering arrangements of said material
  • generate sounds and musical parts that compliment each other sonically, harmonically, rhythmically and all work for the greater good of the song, and
  • mixing.

Most people don’t even realize that the main reason they don’t like their mixes is because the musical parts don’t work well together. In fact, the last two productions I’ve done with guys who spent thousands of dollars on home studios and worked hard for years only to realize that if they truly wanted a great product they would have to go to a real professional. Both were thrilled with what I did for them.

I’ve also been hired many times to go into pro and home studios to mix projects for people. You see mixing is kind of like playing. It’s more about listening than anything else. So, in addition to normal track time, (Paid by your studio fees) and studio time, (paid by clients) I will sometimes give participants free two-hour blocks of studio time over and above trac time, to work at mixing by themselves as this will be necessary to develop these skills.

I will not be teaching the job of mastering in T.R.A.C. as we have more than enough on our plate for the allotted time and most mix engineers leave mastering to someone else anyway. There are however great advantages to learning the art of mixing from someone who is both a mixing and mastering engineer. (See my essay on Mastering for more information)

No mixes leave the studio until the participant in charge is pleased, the client is pleased and I’m convinced it’s the best it can be. So if I’m convinced you can do better, I’ll give you some pointers and leave you to work at it and check in from time to time to see how you’re making out.

AFTER T.R.A.C. IS DONE

One of the most daunting aspects of taking any audio/production course is, “What do I do after it’s done?” To address this scenario, I’ve decided to make the studio available to the participants from May through August (at a drastically reduced rate) so that they may begin their professional careers and build their own portfolios.

COST

The total cost of T.R.A.C. will be $12,500plus HST ($14,250) which will be broken down into five payments of $2,500 plus HST ($2850). The first payment is due when you commit to T.R.A.C.

2nd August 1, 2008
3rd October 2/08
4th December 1/08
5th February 1/09

What else do we need to buy?

  • You will be instructed to buy your own high quality headphones. Do not purchase these before the course as I wish to point out the functions and uses before you decide.
  • You will need the use of an electric guitar for the guitar maintenance part of the course. Whether this is your property or not is your business. If you borrow one from a friend or family member, tell them it will be set up better and stay in tune better when they get it back.

TRAC SESSION TIMES

Trac time will be 12:30-4:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Keep in mind this is just trac time and session time can be over and above these times. Trac times will be flexible to a degree. For example, if a student has a gig and needs to be out of town on a Friday and they give the rest of us a week’s notice and it’s cool for everybody to do Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, the next week, fine. Once again, this is less like school and more like real life. Session schedules change often and you have to be able to roll with it. I have known hundreds of young musicians in the last 30 years. I was one myself and I can tell you that young musicians are not morning people, so it is for this reason that all trac time will be in the afternoon.

RULES

  • Attendance and punctuality are mandatory. There is nothing cool about being late.
  • There will be no coming to the studio high. I will not tolerate drug use during session time and no one under the influence will be allowed to operate the equipment at Reel North.
  • If anyone breaks a piece of equipment, they will be responsible for the cost of the repair.
  • In the extreme chance that a participant steals from the studio, I reserve the right to terminate their enrolment with no refund.

NOTE: I am optimistic that none of the above rules will be broken.

WHAT IF YOU GET SICK?

If someone contracts a flu or bad cold they will not be welcome here because they will infect everyone as we are working in close confines.

I will encourage the participants to work as a team and take it upon themselves to bring the sick participant up to speed, as they would expect the others to do for them. Do unto others . The consumption of pop and junk food will be highly discouraged and there will be spring water and herbal teas on hand at the studio. There will also be an optional nutrition course – this is strictly your choice and you are not paying anything for it. I am a very healthy eater myself and my friends tell me that I am a very good cook. Most of my clients have had many great meals at my kitchen table.

HOW DO I CONTACT YOU?

I do not and will not have e-mail, so if you are seriously interested in T.R.A.C., you may call me at (506)450-3299 and set up an appointment.

So that’s it. You asked for detail and I gave it to you. I’m going to finish off by writing a note to parents of potential participants of the Reel Audio Course.

NOTE TO PARENTS

As I have already stated, I’m not promising anyone that they will be able to make a living as a producer or engineer because no one can promise you that. But I can promise you the following:

  • The participants will be taught to think for themselves, to solve their own problems and the problems of their clients, also, they will be taught to teach themselves to work any piece of audio gear because they know what their objectives are. You see, when I work with young bands, the same age as perspective students, one of the first things I ask them is what their favourite bands are? Then I metaphorically pin these to a bulletin board and say, “Gentlemen – this level of writing, arrangement, performance and production shall be our objective and I shall settle for nothing less.” Well at first, this is shocking because they can’t imagine rising to this level of their heroes, but soon they begin to believe that this is actually possible so they begin to work harder than they ever have at anything before. This process improves the band a great deal. The boys in “Bucket Truck” and “Dionysus” nicknamed this “the Lloyd experience”. It’s been parents and girl friends who have noticed the biggest difference in clients and particiants. I may be a strong, positive influence, but in the end it always the student/client who does all the work and reaps the rewards.
  • Here is the absolute bottom line – if you child really wants to make records, then at the end of T.R.A.C. it will be glaringly obvious whether or not they have the goods of not. I will know, they will know and so will you. There will be no diploma or certificate, but a personalized and detailed letter of recommendation from me honestly pointing out all of their abilities and aptitudes. If they have the stuff, they will require no further training after the Reel Audio Course.

So, if your child really wants to make records, here’s their shot!

Bassically,

Lloyd Hanson

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