Several months ago my son David invited me to record some of my music at a studio complex up near Sebastopol. So on the 12th of September I made my way to Sebastopol with no real idea as to what to expect.
On the 13th, (Friday), I found myself sitting alongside my son as we headed toward TRI Studios
which is located in San Rafael. We stopped for breakfast which was delicious and finally found ourselves in the parking lot of TRI Studios.
It looked like any other industrial building with hardly any mention that a studio might be located there. David showed me the door and I reluctantly stepped inside.
The first thing I noticed was the road case against the wall with the lettering, Grateful Dead
. As my eyes became accustomed to the light, I saw a large room with a keyboard set up on one side, a set of drums in the corner and a small baffle with a vocal mike and a Telefunken
mic in the center. Last but not least was a bass set-up for my son.
David and I were the first musicians to arrive and we immediately went to get a cup of coffee. The lounge needs to be described. First of all, there were numerous posters of The Grateful Dead hanging on the walls. Early group shots, a clock made from old 45 records and the best coffee I ever had in a recording studio. I felt as though I were stepping back in time.
We went back into the studio to get set up. Rick Vargas
, the engineer came in and introduced himself and showed me where to sit. I sat behind the short baffle and unpacked my guitar. My Tanglewood
looked small in this immense room. I was becoming excited. Everywhere I looked was sound reinforcing equipment. In the back of the room, behind me, there was a complete mixing console. I was told it was used when Bob Weir
filmed his TV show, Weir Here
Before the other musicians came, I asked Rick where there might be a set of headphones I could use. His answer was strange. "You won't need headphones", he answered and went back to the control room. I was baffled in more ways than one.
I plugged my guitar into a direct box and asked David how I was supposed to hear myself. A voice came from nowhere and said, "Play!" I started playing and all of a sudden my guitar sounded as though it was in The Hollywood Bowl. It was big and yet all the nuances of my style could be heard. The sound was coming from the ceiling. The voice came back and said, "Sing!" I sang and the vocals were clear and pure with just the right amount of echo. I was astonished! What kind of set-up was this?
David explained that the studio had been built to enhance the musician's sense of playing live music by eliminating the need for both headphones and baffles. This room is set to record live music with no leakage or none that is noticeable. The sound design is by Meyer Sound
and the software is Space Map
which is utilized by the Constellation System
. From what I could tell, the ceiling contains six sections, any of which can be used to reinforce the sound of the musicians and can be moved so that the players can hear their instruments easily without headphones or baffling obstructing their view.
After the musicians arrived and started playing, I began to understand what was happening. Rick came in with an iPad
with the Space Command
controls installed and as we played he moved our sounds from one section of the ceiling to the other until the balance was correct. The music sounded great and everyone could hear quite well. I wondered about leakage.
I have been an engineer since 1960 and worked in studios all over the world but never had I witnessed anything like this. Virtually no leakage at all appeared on the recordings we made and the masters are as clean as I've ever heard. New technology ain't all bad.
Let me speak of the musicians with whom I had the pleasure to play. Jeff Chimenti
played the keyboards, Jason Crosby
played viola, Jay Lane
played drums and Dave Schools
played bass. Never before have I played with a more consummate group of musicians. I had the time of my life.
I found my son David has become a natural producer. Never, for one moment, did I feel stress of any kind and that, too, reminded me of the old days. My son's quiet guidance helped this old man through two days of intense work. I am proud of both David and myself.
May I also mention the fact that the recorders and the cameras never stopped rolling the entire time I was recording or even in the room. You've got to wonder where all that material is being stored. Those are some huge files.
My personal thanks to Rick Vargas (chief engineer) and to Justin Kreutzmann
(video director) for their help in making this project a leap of love.
And to my son, Dave Schools, for making his old man as happy as he's been for a long time.
I will keep you all posted as to the outcome of this session. I am told I must go back to TRI for more work to which I am most assuredly....looking forward.
John Rhys Eddins
Click here to visit TRI Studio!
Here is an explanation of the Constellation System!
A few corrections....
Space map is a feature within the Constellation System program. It allows you to insert a signal ie: vocal or guitar
into the system at the same time giving u the option of choosing the
location from which u hear it coming. There are 4 external inputs available in the
system. The whole system itself is the Meyer Sound Constellation System. 20 DPA microphones pick sound up and 72 speakers (in real time)
play reverb back to the musician. This is just the Constellation System
alone. When recording, microphones are added and I can buss those signals
into the available external inputs. The room is split in half so if
there's an audience, they can hear the ambiance differently than the musicians.
This is also good for creating slap back to mimic stadiums.