Music Production Seminar – SAE Institute, Mexico City :: April 2013

In April, I was invited back to Mexico. This time there was no band or artist to produce, but I conducted two teaching events and both were sweet!

First stop was Cuernavaca, and I was honored to cut the ribbon of Technilogico De Monterrey‘s new on campus recording studio. The staff had been up until 3AM doing last minute wiring and integration, and the studio was almost ready. I don’t think there has ever been a studio construction project that has been completed on time, and this was no exception. I arrived about 15 minutes before the ribbon cutting, and dug right in to help troubleshoot some last minute issues.

We managed to get up and running, though, and the last class of the day turned into an impromptu recording and mix session of James Brown’s “I Feel Good”. The new facility was inaugurated with Soul Power, Cuernavaca style.

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The next stop was SAE Institute in Mexico City, and the event was a two day intensive which we titled “Music Creation – from concept to master”.

The plan was to write a song, record it, mix it, and even do a quick and dirty mastering job. My goal for the course was to give the students a taste of the  reality of music production in 2013. That in our job, whether it be as producer, recording engineer, or even as a studio musician, we end up wearing many hats. The more skills that we can bring to session, the greater the chance of a successful and long lasting career.

The course was limited to 12 students, but there were 15 bodies in the control room when we began, and it turned out to be a perfect number.

We all discussed the game plan. The students were about to complete their second full year of study, and expressed the desire to focus on the creative end of music production. They had been immersed in studying the technical side of audio engineering for a full two years, and were hungry to create. I was immediately impressed by their skill level in the studio, and happily agreed to refocus our goals for the course.

And so we began… Three teams were formed, and each team began writing a song. The teams decided to write the lyrics in English, and I attempted to make each team as musically diverse as possible. The majority of the first day found me moving from room to room, team to team, and providing input on songwriting, as well as dealing with the conflicts that are part of the creative process, as well as being part of life in general.

The day produced three diverse, and excellent, songs. One latin flavored, cleverly upbeat tune. The second song was influenced by Bob Dylan, and the third, a well crafted John Mayer-like pop song. All 3 songs stood on their own as impressive compositions, as well as being an affirmation of the power of teamwork.

I can’t remember what time day 2 was to begin, but we had a very aggressive schedule ahead, so we agreed to meet early. We put together a microphone list before the end of day one, and spent the morning doing our best to mic the tracking room for a session that would essentially accomodate 3 different bands.

The plan for day 2? Our session players would be from among us, as would the engineers, and producers. Whoever was not tracking, was in the control room where we produced and engineered the 3 master recordings.  We were successful in getting the basic tracks done, and we got a great deal of the lead vocals complete. We were not going to finish all the overdubs, nor would we be able to mix.

The thing that amazed me about the 2 days was that we encountered the same issues that I deal with in real life record production. We had conflict, meltdowns, insecurity,  and even band members quitting (we lost a student between day one and day 2). We also had amazing teamwork, mutual support, bursts of creative genius, and fun. We truly immersed ourselves in the 2013 version of Music Production Reality. We made a record.

We all gathered to decompress, and discuss the experience. I asked each student for their most empowering experience, as well as their most frustrating. The most frustrating was overwhelmingly the limitation of only 2 days. We all felt that 3 days would have been ideal to truly reach the goal. I invited everyone to send me updates, and committed to giving feedback on the mix. As of today, I’ve heard that the songs are nearing completion, and I am eagerly awaiting the version 1 mixes (hint, hint, you guys).

 I have no hesitation in stating that the Mexico City immersion was a powerful experience for me. I’ve corresponded with some of the students, and have high hopes for their future careers in music. There was definitely some bright and shining talent in the room.

My heartfelt gratitude to SAE Institute Mexico City, as well as Alphonso, Alex, and Alastair for making it possible.

 

 

 

 

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