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TalkBack | Letters to Mix, January 2010

Another Les Paul Memory In the August and September editions of the MixLine e-newsletter, we asked readers if they have a Les Paul memory or a great photo

Another Les Paul Memory

In the August and September editions of the MixLine e-newsletter, we asked readers if they have a Les Paul memory or a great photo to share.

Les Paul in 2004 at the First World Guitar Congress

I have a great photo of Les Paul. I was at the First World Guitar Congress at Towson University near Baltimore in June 2004. I was an exhibitor for NeckUp Guitar Support, a product I own. Gibson Guitars had a dinner and reception one night for all the vendors and performers. After dinner, I went up to the dessert table and found myself alone and face to face with Les Paul, whom I had never met. I said, “Hi,” and asked him if I could take his picture, and he said, “Sure!” So there you have it. I just wish I had had the presence of mind to get a picture of [Les and me] together. He was just as open and friendly as he appears in the photo.

I offer my thanks to Les for his inspiration and profound influence on my musical life in so many ways.
Mark Hamre

For more remembrances of Les Paul from leading members of the pro audio community, see Mix’s special Les Paul Tribute page at

School Is in Session

In our October 2009 TalkBack section, we asked, “What advice would you give to a student looking for the right audio program?”

During my 30-plus years as an engineer/producer, I’ve often heard, “My brother’s kid wants to work in audio. What would you recommend?” When I was coming up, there were no schools for what I wanted to do. You apprenticed at a studio, hustling burgers, setting up when they trusted you with their mics and looked over the shoulders of giants. If you were lucky, someone would take the time to answer a few questions at the end of a long day. I was also fortunate to be given free studio time to learn the ropes and make my own mistakes. Those days are all but gone.

Apprenticeships are fewer and further between, as are the studios that used to offer them. More productions are taking place in small, private studios, and to a lesser degree in the remaining commercial rooms. The premier rooms will always have a place, but the middle ground of “overdub studios” has all but disappeared.

For students who are starting out, the formula seems to be to learn by doing, read the forums and trial by fire. But at some point, they hit the wall.

Having chosen to split my time between independent production and teaching, I was impressed with career colleges. Students are advised from day one to keep their eyes on the horizon and to have a diverse set of skills. They get studio recording experience, the full gamut of sound reinforcement, audio for games, sound-for-picture and more. They also take classes required to satisfy a Bachelor of Science degree.

Today’s student never knows where this career path will lead and being prepared with the “Swiss army knife” of talents will carry them a long way.
David Cole

Art Institute of Calif., San Diego

I see the complete relevance of educating as many people as possible to the basics of audio. Some might argue, “What is the point of training if all we are doing is mixing down to an iPod?” I believe that the cream will eventually rise to the top, and that we will see the next generation of MPEG players offering uncompressed/companded audio with much higher resolution.

The flip side is the tacit fraud perpetrated by institutions as to the possibility (and in many cases a guarantee) of career/employment.

During the ’80s, when the industry was at its financial peak and large studios were flourishing, there were thousands of wannabe engineers (many with engineering diploma/degrees) who were placed on waiting lists just to do an internship for no pay. This scenario worsened with the closure of hundreds of major studios beginning in the mid-’90s.

Yet now, when the industry is at its weakest and the Internet has watered down sales and marketing strategies, there are more institutions than ever that offer a “rewarding career” for the sake of preserving their company’s bottom line.

What actually defines a “career?” Technology has made it possible for studios to be built for vastly less money and require less square-footage, and to that end a smaller staff. However, with escalating rent, utilities, Web services and advertising costs, we often see studios that cannot afford a staff engineer. In fact, most studio owners are the primary engineers.

I can’t speak for every graduate, but it’s a fair bet that most of them don’t have the resources to fund such a startup — and even if they did, what would be their reward? While we would seemingly desire the benefits of having a more educated engineering base, there are fewer opportunities to utilize it.
Plex Barnhart
The MusicPlex

Choose a well-rounded program that includes business and communication courses. Technical skills are great, but you need to be able to apply them to real-life situations. If you aren’t personable or can’t see the big picture, and have difficulty contributing to the studio business as a whole, all the skills in the world won’t help.
Stacey Gamble
Allure Sound

It seems that every day, there is a new iPhone app ready for download — whether it’s a game, tracking sport scores, etc. Next month, Mix looks at high-end audio iPhone apps that can be tools for your next production. Tell us your favorite audio app by e-mailing [email protected].