A Look at Alan Parsons Art & Science of Sound Recording
COW Library : Audio Engineering : Ronald Lindeboom : A Look at Alan Parsons Art & Science of Sound Recording
If you are one of the many people working in film and broadcast that has been wanting to sharpen your skills in audio production -- or just become more aware of its principles and dynamics -- I'd like to point out a series that is near to guaranteed to expand your working knowledge of audio. I know of experienced engineers who admit to having learned new tricks from it.
The series comes to you from Alan Parsons, a man whose credits have included some of my favorite albums over the years: Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon," The Beatles' "Abbey Road," and Al Stewart's "Time Passages," et al. Then came his decade long Platinum-selling career with the Alan Parsons Project, whose "Eye in the Sky" and "Time" are still popular radio staples more than 30 years after their release.
Alan Parsons has now released the DVD/downloadable series Alan Parsons' Art and Science of Sound Recording. Priced at $149 for the DVDs with downloads or buy just the download version alone for $99. Either one is a steal. I bought the combo in January of 2011 so that I can have the series with me on my iPad and have been using it since.
After living with it for much of 2011, how do I feel about the purchase? Even with its flaws which come with annoying semi-regularity, it is still my favorite audio production and engineering training series. It was a monumental undertaking that while far from perfect has many things to recommend it. While there are even a couple of "wince moments" where it's pretty obvious what's missing -- such as in the section on de-essing in which they do not give an auditory example. Still, you have to admire what they did accomplish with the budget I am sure they had to work with.
Even with its flaws, I love it and would give it four out of five cows.
On DVD, it is a three disc chronicle of what Alan Parsons has picked up during a lifetime of audio engineering and production. Narrated by Billy Bob Thornton (yes, that Billy Bob Thornton) and co-written and produced with Julian Colbeck, the series is well planned and executed. During the series Parsons explores many facets of audio engineering, instrument set-up and micing, recording, editing and sweetening. It is a window in which Parsons allows aspiring audio engineers -- and even accomplished engineers -- to look over his shoulder as he produces an actual recording session.
Alan Parsons is joined in sidebar discussions by other A-list audio engineers and producers like Simon Rhodes (Engineer, Avatar), Jack Joseph Puig (Green Day, U2), Allen Sides (Joni Mitchell, Fergie), Elliot Scheiner (Steely Dan) and many others.
How good is it? Over the years I have been able to work alongside a multi-platinum-selling audio engineer/producer and Alan Parsons' Art and Science of Sound Recording is second only to that kind of experience. Sure, there are times when they use charts and graphs rather than simply film a person in a room with a microphone -- actually showing you how sound changes (because of mic polarity) as the person moves around the mic. Demonstrating it happening and illustrating how sound changes as a result, would have been much more effective. Still, they demonstrate enough that you get the idea and understand what is going on. I guess they had to draw the line somewhere, and so they assume that if you understand some of what's happening, you can connect the dots and figure out the rest. It works much of the time.
How does it compare to some of the best audio engineering training series that I have bought over the years? There are some series out of Nashville that I have seen which go into deeper detail in focused areas (such as mics, boards, software, etc.) but overall, this series would be a genuine benefit to many from beginner to expert.
It is about as close as most of us will ever get to working with an engineer the calibre of Alan Parsons. Throw in his discussions and sidebars with his many friends who offer their own insights and you have something special.
The performers being recorded are equally impressive. On the drums is none other than Simon Phillips (Toto, The Who, Jeff Beck), one of the greatest rock and fusion drummers of the last few decades. On bass is Nathan East (Whitney Houston, Madonna, Michael Jackson), a truly monster bass player -- just ask your bass playing friends. Rami Jaffee from the Wallflowers mans the piano and Hammond Organ with its fiery Leslie. Add Tim Pierce, guitarist for Michael Jackson, soaring on top of it all with his guitar and you have the line-up for Alan Parsons' new song, "All Our Yesterdays."
There is no substitute to getting to work alongside real pros, learning from their knowledge and experience. I've been fortunate to have co-produced two albums with Steve Crimmel of Painted Sky Studios (who has worked with Lionel Richie, Kenny Loggins, Neil Diamond, Supertramp and many others while a staff engineer at Ocean Way for 15 years). During 2004 and 2005, Steve and I co-produced two albums for longtime British progressive folk rock act, The Strawbs. It was a baptism of fire that taught me more about audio than I ever knew and I have been really into audio in a huge way since I was a child.
For me, working through Alan Parsons' Art and Science of Sound Recording is second only to getting the chance to work with my friend Steve on the two Strawbs projects.
I could lay out all of the many reasons why I recommend this series but I will make this short and sweet and will just say this: for $99 you will get an audio education that is way beyond the cost. Sure, it's not complete and there are areas where you will want to dig deeper into specific subjects but overall I cannot think of a better series for the money.
Four stars out of five. $99. Alan Parsons as your guide. How can you beat that?
If you want to learn more or order it, you will find the series website at artandscienceofsound.com
Rating: 4 out of 5 COWs