James continues with his diary of his time at Studio La Fabrique with Al Schmitt and Steve Genewick for Mix With The Masters.
Mix With The Masters Day 3
After yet another 3 course breakfast we hit the studio for the tracking day. We had already done a day of preparation setting the studio so all we needed was our band.
Our band was a group of session guys from Italy with singer Celeste Leffa. The vibe was smooth jazz club. The drums were to be played mainly with brushes so we had no real problems with spill or mic bleed or so we hoped. At the end of the first track we decided to move the drums into the booth. This meant changing the vibe and putting the musicians on headphones. Not really what Al wanted but it all turned out well in the end. There was a little bleed from the piano and bass into the vocal mic but this was very soft gentle jazz so there was no need for massive amounts of edits or over dubs. All in all a great session, which finished a little early with no more than 4 takes of each song being recorded.
So with the extra time Al asked if we would like to put one of his sessions up on the board. I was personally all “jazzed” out so asked for some Steely Dan. Al had the multi-track Pro Tools session of “Peg” so I jumped at the chance to remix a classic.
Mix With The Masters Day 4
Now to get down to what we were really here for. To see Al up close, doing his thing. Al uses a number of different delay and reverb effects to help achieve his “sound” but I’m not going to say any more than that. If you want to find out more then you are going to either have to do his MWTM course next year or subscribe to the PTE video platform where I will be showing you to the best of my ability over the coming weeks what the “tricks” are. But to say that is was a joy to watch Al work and really get in the zone would be an understatement. The mixes went together quite quickly. It was a small number of instruments and Al just made the vocal pop over the top. And this was the cool part. No EQ, just a dB or two sniff of compression on the vocal and great reverb. The rest is all in the balance. And it sounded beautiful. A couple of minor tweaks to please the bands producer Roberto “Robbo” Vigo and that was it. 4 mixes in about 6 hours.
Mix With The Masters Day 5-6-7
The format of the last 3 days was for AL and Steve to get to hear the mixes and sessions that we had brought with us. The standard was amazing. All the guys really had the tracking and recording thing down and I think in some cases Steve and Al were really struggling for something to work on. The mixes sounded great. For my party piece I had just finished recording a song by Rex Strother. I had made it a kind of Steely Dan esc groove so I put it up on the Neve for Al and Steve and the rest of the guys to listen to. Now I have said many times that I am not a mix engineer, I’m a tracking guy and I have never mixed on a large format console so this was a first. But it was a pleasurable experience. Again for us no EQ or compression just reverb and balance and it worked. Both Al and Steve offered me plenty to work on and to have the courage to commit to what I was hearing and to believe in my audio instincts.
So was it worth it.
100% Yes. Attending a MWTM course is not cheap but it was an amazing week of gear, audio, music, listening and talking shop with like minded people some of whom are at the very top of their game. Oh and you get to chill, eat and drink with these guys to. I know I made the right choice to go on the course with master Al Schmitt and Steve Genewick.