George Massenburg leans over the SSL board while Elliot Scheiner and a Berklee student look on—true studio etiquette!
In an environment where students are just as likely to memorize an album’s production credits as its lyrics, the arrival of engineer/producer Elliot Scheiner at Berklee College of Music (Boston) jam-packed the studio — even more so when he announced Kathy Mattea as the artist and the school’s Herb Alpert Visiting Professor George Massenburg as his assistant! Scheiner was at the school at the behest of Music Production and Engineering department chair Rob Jaczko to present his new Foo Fighters album. Mattea was brought in that week by another department. It was just luck that Massenburg, Scheiner and Mattea were at Berklee on the same day (September 30) to pull off a “teaching session” such as this.
Songwriters/Berklee students Erin Barra and Jared Salvatore collaborated with the threesome to produce an exclusive new song. The engineers employed a live feel to capture the comfortable style of recording everyone together. They tracked to analog, though Massenburg snuck in a simultaneous Pro Tools file. In the mix process, only the vocal was transferred from tape. Student musicians accompanied Mattea as she sang and played tin whistle.
In the vaguely rectangular Studio A, the drums were placed a bit out of a corner, with the bassist (sitting next to the drummer) playing straight through an Avalon DI. The percussionist, acoustic guitarist, harpist and pianist were arrayed around the studio. Mattea (who sang through a U47), the only musician isolated with gobos, was originally closer to the drums and against the control room window. Bleed and slapback off the glass forced her to shift farther away and be barricaded in a gobo fort. Two Cole 4038s miked the piano (one inside and one out), while an Aguilar DI and Telefunken 47 were used on the guitar; a Schoeps CMC6-U was pointed down over the Celtic harp. A 414 was used in the percussion overdubs, and room mics were Josephson C42s. The drum kit took an AKG D112 (kick), SM57 (snare), 4050s (overheads), 421 (tom) and 469 (hi-hat).
During the recording process, Scheiner ran the SSL console while Massenburg concerned himself with the performers. Studio etiquette gems shone throughout the process, with the students taking a bit of abuse, but as Massenburg said, “They won’t fear anyone in a studio now! I think it is going to be a mistake if you say, ‘Now I am a trained engineer. Now I am going to work in a studio.’ That’s not how it works. You are going to go out and do everything.”