AE-240: Analog Technologies Class
Early Fall 2008
eddie ciletti

week-4 audio samples

week-8 details

week-10 mixes and notes


   1. Show up consistently and on time. Try not to miss class unless you have a communicable disease. Let me know in advance if you can't make it.
   2. Be prepared for class, if you are playing on a track, please rehearse. If there is an audio assignment please email it as well as bring to class.
   3. e-mail after each class - this is a minimum requirement, not a suggestion. The first e-mail should include:

  • your preferred e-mail address, cell # and text address
  • stuff about you - Musician? Engineer? Programmer? Videographer, Producer? Gamer? Geek?
  • what you'd like to learn in this class
  • RSVP:  While I am guilty of being inspired often to write alot, please reply to at least one of my e-mail strings so I know they are getting out.

The LH-1 Control Room has been dubbed "Not Too Shabby Road."  It is a very humble space that approximates what a control room was like "back in the day."  The main monitors are over forty years old and nearly identical to the systems used at Abbey Road during the mid sixties, including the fact that they are being driven by a Vacuum Tube Amplifier.  In addition, you will notice the presence  of technical support equipment - tools, oscilloscopes, oscilators, meters and test tapes.   By combining tech with recording equipment you will gain some insight into how stuff works. 

While DIGITAL technology is far from perfect,  we take it for granted until it stops working.  By contrast, ANALOG has an "operating performance window," one that can be as wide or as narrow as time and money allow  - a.k.a. your technical budget.  That said, this percentage of functionality allows a wide palette off tonal options IF you understand how to control that window.  I think this is one reason why analog gear is enjoying such a long renaissance - a piece can be nearly broken and still be useful - but that is not necessarily how analog gear was used back when it was th eonly option.  In fact, there are two distinct approaches - one in which everything is fucntioning at its best and the other more Laissez-faire approach.

The somewhat obvious question is whether we should be romanticizing Analog, because there are such extreme examples of it on the 'net - where anything old seems to generate a good deal of arrogant conversation and everyone has an opinion, yet few seem to agree about what is good or bad.  There can be such a feeding frenzy at on-line auctions - the super-sized impulse buy - that it's easy to get sucked into, but it is another example of irrational exuberance, of buying into the hype rather than focus on the main goal - of making music and being creative.  Earlier this year I interviewed engineer Richard Dodd, who reminded me that on many a revered recording, signal chains were chosen from a short list of “What we have,” “What we have left” or “What we have working.”  My spin on “what we have this century” is the luxury of many options, perhaps too many. 

I choose to view all this with a skeptical eye.  Owning vintage gear requires care and feeding.  As a user of now-vintage gear when it was new, there were shortcomings  - noise and speed variations (wow and flutter) that had to be understood in advance or they would get in the way of the recording.  When I started in the mid-seventies, "Modern Recording Technology" was no more than 20 years old, 16-track and 24-track recording was common and in a few years, synchronization would become practical so that multiple machines could be slaved for more tracks.  Control rooms of that time had a bit of the old and the new just as now.

You might be surprised to learn that the essence of this class is an emphasis on creativity and musicianship over technology.  We will use the Discipline of Obstacles, which in the first five weeks means limiting recording to 4-tracks - this will change the way you record drums, especilly when the mics will be combined to one track. 

WEEK-1:Introduction to Tape Machines
Your first lesson will be simply to learn how to use the various tape machines at our disposal - how to thread, "locate" and play.  This may seem easier than it is, because there are several machines in the control room, each with different features, such as dynamics (how fast they respond to your commands) and logic.  There are some links below - versions of articles about tape machines - and  YES, there is alot of tech stuff, but mostly take the time to look at the drawings, charts and pictures, try to absorb what you can and keep in mind that most tape moves from supply reel on the left to take-up reel on the right.  In between, from left to right are the Erase Head, Record Head and Playback Head followed by the Capstan and Pinch roller, which are responsible for governing the speed.


WEEK-2: Tape Effects
Tape machines can be used to create echo, chorus and phasing effects...