SUMMER SESSION '07: Re-recording The Beatles


From Rob Rogers…

First of all, I'd like to thank you, Eddie, for offering the class as well as your enthusiasm for teaching. I learned so much, yet there is still so much to be learned. All I can say is I look forward to your maintenance class in the future.

Things that I learned that I will surely put to use include mic placement - on the kit and amps - plus playing the Spanish "gibberish" backwards through an amp in the hallway, then flipping it forward to achieve the 'sucking' sound. Also, having access to such a great compressor / limiter and EQ (Manley) helped me come to better understand the way in which these processors work. 

Though I did less work on the 'mixing performance' it was good ear training and timing training to watch Tom and Drew cover those bases. I found the documentation very fun and, later extremely important in the process of making a master reel for both saving time running through takes, as well as slating them and knowing which take goes together from all the best takes. 

I also am grateful for the opportunity to observe and briefly participate in the musical creation. It was an experience that I think everyone who appreciates music ought to acknowledge. The dynamic of the studio is a very delicate and often a tedious mix of ego and emotion. This session was no exception - it reminded me of the importance of not choosing sides, while remaining as objective and patient as possible.

All in all, I learned a lot about the mic's we used, careful listening, the value of expensive and or vintage equipment, reel effects, mixing and tape editing. I want to thank you for all the information you provided us, as well as all the stories and experiences, which were by the way, probably my favorite part.


rob rogers

p.s. I'll get you the coconut chai tea by next quarter

Hey Eddie;

While my memory is still fresh, I wanted to say that this was a really great experience. Thank you again for letting us stay way after class was "over." We wouldn't have gotten anything done otherwise. 

I think that one area in which the class MIGHT improve is if there was more of a schedule introduced than had existed. For example, we could have a rough plan to track from _ to _, bounce from _ until _, etc. I also thought that on the student's level, we could have had better communication, but when isn't that true? (see original schedule below, ec.)

I know that this may sound strange, but I did wish that more things had gone wrong. By that, I mean that it would have been beneficial to my experience to have had more problems (technological or otherwise) to take care of in little or no time. 

Thanks again, Eddie.

-Tom Colvin

Summer Session: Recording The Beatles 

By Daniel Olivares

Thanks to Eddie, Peter, John, Dave T, David H, Nate, Jess, Alex, and all the other students that helped for months to prepare for the two week experience.

The session was an incredible experience. I had eagerly anticipated the chance to learn about analog technology, and have hands on access to unique and rare equipment. We spent the first day learning how to setup tape machines and splicing. We ended up doing some extensive editing for the Abbey Road Medley, it was then that we realized how important documentation was when we were looking for takes and reels. 

The guerilla recording aspect was what I was looking forward to the most. I wanted to learn to appreciate the craft of recording in a humble sense. I feel that students push the idea that expensive gear makes the green, but I never believed it made the goods. With a modest mic locker we were able to capture sounds that we desired, but more importantly we had the time to evaluate our decisions. Listening to seven kick mics for the sake of finding the one that proved to be most desirable for the application was a memorable experience. We also tried different placements, barriers, tunnels, preamps, pads, compression and equalization. 

After referring to the manual, Recording the Beatles, and reviewing all of our recording needs (a full-live-band performance and available preamps and inputs) we decided to use about five mics. The whole set up was unconventional. No condenser mics were used. We chose the D12E for kick (slightly snare side towards the beater), with two baffles on the sides of the kicks edges parallel with the kit. 

For snare, a modified SM57 (transformer removed) underneath (after listening to original Beatles tracks we decided that we wanted the sound of the rattling snares instead of the more modern ideal of snap). We also tried a Cascade Fathead Ribbon in several positions – actually rotating to experiment with phase until we found preference. That one mic gave us many options - positions, initially to the left of the snare with the null at the shell. Later it was higher and pointed at the center of the head. 

For Honey Pie we used a Nady tube mic to capture a more ambient snare tone as well as desired bleed from a phonograph and the important "big time" holler. 

For overheads we experimented with a Shure dynamic omni, modified 57, and a Fathead, but ended up with the Shure omni directly overhead mixed with a Coles ribbon mic over center above and behind the drummer's head.

The kick and snare mics were run through one Ampex tube mixer to a variable-mu Manley comp/lim and Manley Massive Passive EQ, and then into another Ampex mixer to create the mono drum track. It was definitely impressive to create a drum track that was really close to what we had desired to achieve. 

The guitars and bass were fairly simple, although the selection of a SM 58 placed at a near 45-degree angle on the bass was a bit unique. We used old school effects and tricks: reverb, delay, flanging, reverse vocals, overdubs vocal layers, lowering pitch on the four-track so the vocalist could hit the high notes. 

Having access to the vintage and vintage-modeled gear we borrowed for the project was extra special. First of all it makes you appreciate the friends and colleagues in the recording business, and stresses the importance of developing positive relationships with people within the business. 

Each piece of gear was a small fortune and extremely fun to play with. Passive equalization was completely different than what I was familiar with and has inspired an interest in the internal workings of machines and the components that create the unique sounds. I remember everybody looking over at the Altec tube pre/compressor and saying "it keeps hitting red," but it sounded so good and wasn’t distorting. 

Having the chance to peek inside of the boxes was interesting as well. We had the chance either to help fix equipment or at least watch somebody fixing something, plus ask questions. At one point Eddie picked up a card from the four track and started welding a 20-foot cable to it, and it became our send to a second tape machine for reel flanging. 

We learned what pads do and more importantly how transformers work at the input and output of a piece of gear. I feel more confident asking questions and understanding answers after hanging out with Eddie and Peter for those ten days. At the same time I realize how many different ways to use the same piece of gear for different sounds: distortion, fatness, color. 

We (the students) had the ability to participate as producers as well. There was one point where we thought it would be better to switch guitar amps to achieve a certain tone. Having the opportunity to mix the music was a great experience. Most of us were familiar with Pro Tools, and mixing from tape was completely different. We had to rehearse every move and wait for the tape to rewind for playback, but we were all surprised how tangible the music was and the console became an instrument. We were all surprised with the sound of tape and tubes compared to the Pro Tools sessions. At the same time Pro Tools sounded great, our mic placement was good, our musicians were good, and the songs were good. 

It was a great time and I was glad when it was over. I felt more confident in my own decision-making and session planning. Having the opportunity to discuss the pre-production ideas and the process leading up to the session has been helpful. Watching Eddie make decisions as the producer - and the musicians interaction with each other - was a good experience. I generally appreciated the enthusiasm surrounding the project. Everybody stayed late most days and left in a good mood. Plus we got to listen to great music the whole time on gigantic Altec monitors.