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Alan Parsons’ Art & Science of Sound Recording

Musician and writer Julian Colbeck founded Keyfax NewMedia in 1990, which specializes in products and services based around music production. In the past two decades, Keyfax has created several eminently popular products, such the Phat Boy MIDI controller, as well as producing more than 20 DVD titles. Colbeck’s latest project is Alan Parsons’ Art & Science of Sound Recording, a video series presented by multi-platinum producer Alan Parsons and narrated in English by actor and musician Billy Bob Thornton and in German by mastering engineer Friedemann Tischmeyer.

Julian, when did you first come up with the idea for this really great video set?
The first day I sat down at Alan's kitchen table and we brainstormed this project was in October 2007. I'd made a video series called Getting the Most out of Home Recording in 1989 and Alan had appeared in it. Alan loved this series and over the years had always said that we should do a program together that took the concept to the next level.

So it was clear from the beginning that you’d have Alan Parsons on board?
Yes, Alan was central to the idea for many reasons. First, we are good friends and he was very keen to make the program in the first place. Secondly, and more importantly, Alan is in the unique position of being a successful engineer, a producer and artist. Juggling these skills is one of the biggest problems facing DAW users and Alan is uniquely qualified to offer help and advice. Today people have to wear so many hats, and it's tough. Alan has done this all his working life.

The boxed set consists of three DVDs and more than ten hours of video footage. Please give our readers a rundown of what’s included.
The Art & Science of Sound Recording is a complete “top-to-toe” look at the modern sound recording process. It begins with looking at what sound is and how it behaves in rooms and then follows the chain of events and equipment from beginning to end. First we look at microphones, then monitors, consoles and controllers. We look at DAWs and their associated products. We look at MIDI. We look at each individual type of processor  - EQ, compressors, delays, reverbs etc. — looking at both how the processes work and how to use both software and hardware examples. Then we take a separate look at the process of recording all of the main instruments — guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, and vocals. We also look at recording a choir, and at how to record guitar and vocal simultaneously. Two large final sections look at a live band tracking session, where you can see all of the equipment and individual processes coming together. And then finally a mix of the song you have seen being recorded.

Throughout the program you get to see what Alan Parsons does — and did do on classic recordings like Dark Side of the Moon — and also get to see what other current engineers, producers and artists are doing.

And Alan’s using Cubase in all these tutorials?
Alan has been a Cubase/Nuendo user since Day One. But he lives in a world where other platforms have a very strong presence in pro studios throughout the USA. When you see Alan in the ASSR studio he's always using Cubase. But when the program is on location you will see other platforms, yes. Well, one other platform! That's just the world we live in and it would not be realistic if we pretended otherwise.

Having said that, we felt it was vital that the program not be about Version 5.0 of anything, but more about the underlying processes, skills and approaches. This way we can guarantee the program will still be relevant in years to come. Reverberation or 10 kHz shelving EQ parameter will still be reverberation or 10 kHz shelving EQ parameter in the year 2050!

What about the studio stories that Alan Parsons conducted for Keyfax?
In the program Alan interviews more than 40 people from Erykah Badu to Michael McDonald to Jack Joseph Puig to Simon Phillips to Taylor Hawkins so you get a wonderfully balanced range of ideas and approaches. In the main program you just get to see and hear snippets of these “studio stories” interviews but on the website we continue to post the complete interview as a free and stand-alone video.

When Alan Parsons talks to, say Elliot Scheiner or Sylvia Massey, you get a completely different interview than if a journalist had conducted it. It's really fascinating to see how relaxed and revealing the Studio Stories series is.

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