I took a recording class from Bruce in Chicago before there were recording schools and before I had a studio job. At some point, he moved to California to work with Quincy, and a little while later I moved to L.A. as well, and immediately got a job at Westlake Studios. Three days after I’m in California, I’m busy. And who comes in, and who do I start assisting for? Swedien and Quincy.
I ended up being Bruce’s assistant for five or six years and it was wonderful. I sat behind him on Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall album, with Lena Horne, with Rufus and Chaka Khan, with Quincy on The Dude — dozens of records — and Bruce was always really generous with information, always sharing about how to do something, why he was doing something — and not just recording, but life lessons, too.
Illustration: Rob Kelly
If I have any kind of success now, it really is directly proportional to the love and attention and education I got sitting behind Bruce Swedien.
— Ed Cherney, producer/engineer
Ribbon Mics in Action
Using ribbon mics in the initial recording of percussion tracks can definitely make life easier when it comes to mastering a recording. Here’s how it works: If you have the Michael Jackson album Off the Wall, listen to “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” Listen carefully to the percussion: It is Michael and his brothers playing glass bottles. I wanted the glass bottle percussion in this piece of music to have a unique sonic character and a great deal of impact in the final mix.
The year was 1979. I used a mic technique that came from my experience during the days when it was difficult to put much transient response on a disc. I used all ribbon, or velocity, microphones to record the glass bottle percussion section. The mics I chose were my RCA 77DXs and RCA 44BXs.
If I had used condenser microphones, with the condenser mics’ ability to translate the entire transient peak of the bottles, the bottles would have sounded great played back from tape in the control room, but when it came time to master, such an incredible transient peak would have minimized the overall level — on disc, cassette or CD — of the entire piece of music. In other words, condenser mics would have compromised the dynamic impact of the sonic image of the entire piece of music. < /hr> Legendary recording engineer Bruce Swedien is currently in the studio with Ricky Martin.