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By Bruce Swedien. This book is the result of the many requests for information that I have received while doing a series of seminars on music recording at colleges and universities in America, Europe, and Asia and a multitude of letters and inquiries regarding the subject. I will attempt to adapt my experience and knowledge gained through countless hours spent in the recording studio, recording on countless miles of tape and on every conceivable kind of digital audio workstation.
I have recorded almost every type of musical instrument and every type of voice, including horses, dogs, cats, chickens, cows, and an assortment of birds, crickets, and frogs. My heartfelt thanks to my best friend and wife, Bea, for her pains spent, hour after hour, day after day, reading and correcting my manuscript.
I am extremely grateful to both Robert Moog and Roger Linn for sharing their meaningful insight into this fascinating subject with us. His efforts and marvelous wisdom are always right on time! My genuine gratefulness to my good friend Trond Braaten for his sincere friendship and his always knowledgeable help. I have personally witnessed how music has evolved over the last few decades. To me, the most interesting factor of that development is that, during that time, music has remained the singularly most influential medium the world has known.
Having played so many roles in music, I think it is producing which gives me the most pleasure, because it allows my first loves to always stay close to me: arranging, orchestrating, conducting, and scoring films — my preferred means of musical self-expression.
To place the paint on the blank canvas in just the right space and time. To create something from nothing. Early in my career, while doing that very thing, I met a young dude at Universal Studios in Chicago by the name of Bruce Swedien, who seemed to share my excitement in creating recorded music images that originated in our own imagination.
We have been kindred spirits ever Since. What has made it comfortable for us to spend countless happy hours together in the studio is that both Bruce and I share the knowledge that music is the denominator — the great leveler — the joyous equalizer no pun intended. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, without written permission, except by a newspaper or magazine reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review. Swedien, Bruce.
Sound engineers—United States—Biography. Sound recording industry—United States. Popular music—United States—History and criticism. I began work on this book about twenty years ago, when I was living in Chicago. My original intent was to write a book with a purely technical sum and substance, relating my view of techniques that I had learned in various studios and in school I studied electrical engineering with a minor in music at the University of Minnesota.
As the work on this book progressed in fits and starts, over the next fifteen years or so , I began to realize that quite possibly I had a bit of story to tell. When I started work as a professional, at Universal Recording in Chicago, I was only twenty-two years old. That point in time was the end of the Big Band era. Music recording was in a state of revolution.
And some fantastic smaller bands too! Working on this book, it has become clear to me that I am fortunate enough to have worked with, and counted as friends, some of the greatest musicians, music writers, producers, performers and just plain studio folks in this industry. I have often thought that in actuality, my true role in the studio has been that of the fortunate student. The sometimes long but constantly delightful hours that I have spent in the studio have made me realize that I have learned a great deal from an absolutely fascinating segment of the true nobility of the music industry.
To me, music has always seemed to be organic in myself. To be a part of the creation of music seems as necessary to me as eating or breathing. I simply must listen to music every day of my life in order to feel complete and satisfied with my world. There is almost nothing else in my life as important to me as recording good music. I love to listen to live music, but to me the real central interest of my being is in creating a recording of popular music that entertains the listener in an elegant fashion.
Memorable recordings start with purely emotional values, not technical values. On the other side of the coin, of course, I think it would be good for a lot of musical people to acquire as many technical skills as they can.
I have, now and then, been admonished by a producer or artist that I have been working with for freely talking about a technique or method that I have devised for achieving a certain sound. I think we all bring a piece of ourselves to the work at hand. We all have very different Sonic Personalities. Therefore I happily give what is on these pages to you.
My mother and father were both professional musicians, so I had that meaningful musical input very early in my life.
As an or year-old, I used to go with my mother to her rehearsals. You can see that my interest in music recording really had its origin in my first experiences listening to classical music. I heard it for the first time when I was about 10 years old, played by the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Dimitri Metropolis. The sea has always fascinated me — I am most definitely a water person — so I guess La Mer by Debussy captured my musical imagination for that reason.
That was the instant that everything musical made great sense to me. That was when I became a bona-fide, card-carrying, top-drawer music junkie. Mom and Dad were unconditionally supportive of my interest in music recording. A bit later, when I was about 13 or 14, my father asked me, Bruce, is there something that totally interests you — absolutely and completely?
I think he was trying to ask me, What do you want to do for the rest of your life? I replied something like, Make mine music! I first became intrigued by the art of recording music at the tender age of 10 years. My dad gave me a disc-recording machine for my tenth birthday, and ten minutes later I had decided on music recording as a lifetime career. That was all it took! I have never regretted that decision. By the time I was 15 years old, I was working in a small basement recording studio in Minneapolis.
My summer vacations from school were spent recording any willing musical group. This early focus of attention and energy has helped me a great deal. During high school, I recorded everything from Minnesota-type polka bands to black gospel singing quartets in the living room. In addition, I had an illegal radio station in the garage so that I could broadcast my recordings to the whole neighborhood.
I was very fortunate in that my mom and dad were unconditionally supportive of my interest in music recording. They were absolutely fantastic, and they were patient beyond belief. I almost ruined the house! I drilled big holes through the walls for wires. I tore down plaster from the ceiling while hanging speakers. I blew fuses and almost started fires because my recording equipment overloaded all the circuits.
Later, I attended the University of Minnesota. Bea and I had just gotten married, and I was running the recording department for Schmitt Music Company in Minneapolis. They had a wonderful studio, and later — about — I bought that studio and the business from Schmitt Music.
My father and I then bought an old movie theater in Minneapolis on the south side of the downtown area, which we converted into a recording studio. Incidentally, it is still a world-class recording studio. Instead, we used egg cartons as a substitute for acoustical tiles. For weeks and weeks, Bea and I glued egg cartons to the studio ceiling. Actually, the studio sounded quite wonderful. Recording music is beyond any shadow of a doubt, no less interesting to me now than it was when I was a youngster.
Of all the arts, music is the most glorious. Music touches the heart of every human being — even those rare people who boast of being tone-deaf have, at some point, been moved by music of one sort or another. To me, music is the only true magic in life! At the present time, good music — either live or recorded — is available to essentially everyone in the world, on a scale that would have been unimaginable years ago. The paradox of popular music is that while the making of pop music records has become more and more complex, it nevertheless remains a significant part of our daily life.
The most significant cultural importance of these very first music-recording devices was that by capturing the uniqueness of specific performances, they made much more widely available the emotional qualities of those performances.
In other words, the unique sound of a singer or instrumentalist could be widely heard; their performances could be endlessly repeated, without reference to sheet music or written notes. These days, sharing music is much easier. Most modern teenagers can comfortably sketch out his or her identity with a play list of favorite music.
Since I was very young, music has always seemed to be organic in me. I take the music that I am involved in very personally. A few years ago, I was discussing this very thing in the control room with a couple of musician friends. All three of us felt pretty much the same way, but with varying degrees of intensity.
As we were talking, I realized that I could almost give up food more easily than recording music. For those who really know me, that is saying a great deal. There is almost nothing else in my life as important to me as recording music. If the coming of the phonograph record killed off live bands by the dozens, it also provided the economic bait to start dozens and eventually hundreds of recording companies and facilities all over the world. These recording enterprises give employment to bands, musicians, singers, and composers, and in addition give musicians a creative release that otherwise would not have been there.
As a professional in music recording, I have been involved since the days of the big bands. During this period, I have seen many fascinating technological changes in this industry.
I was working at Schmitt Music Company as recording engineer in their small but excellent recording facility.
Make Mine Music
By Bruce Swedien. This book is the result of the many requests for information that I have received while doing a series of seminars on music recording at colleges and universities in America, Europe, and Asia and a multitude of letters and inquiries regarding the subject. I will attempt to adapt my experience and knowledge gained through countless hours spent in the recording studio, recording on countless miles of tape and on every conceivable kind of digital audio workstation. I have recorded almost every type of musical instrument and every type of voice, including horses, dogs, cats, chickens, cows, and an assortment of birds, crickets, and frogs. My heartfelt thanks to my best friend and wife, Bea, for her pains spent, hour after hour, day after day, reading and correcting my manuscript. I am extremely grateful to both Robert Moog and Roger Linn for sharing their meaningful insight into this fascinating subject with us.