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A Major Update: The Recording Session Vault Educational Website Project

On the Recording Session Vault Educational Website Project there is a massive update that has been about six months in the making. While there will be new articles in the traditional spaces on the website, there are three new components to it— two of which have substantial numbers of articles in them. The first new section is an educational guide which contains 21 articles about how the great music of the past was created that topped the Billboard Charts from 1958-2003. The second new section is an educational product guide which looks at the products that are still being made today by 45 of the greatest companies in the world of professional music recording that were used to create the great music of the past. The third new section is truly unique and has taken months of research to develop. It is a landing page which has a pair of databases that are designed to assist historians, educators and those who love the great popular music of the past to be able to discover the engineers who recorded their favorite songs and albums and the recording studio facilities in which they were created. There are also 4 new articles in the traditional sections— a new biography of an amazing engineer and friend, two new recording studio spotlights and a new company spotlight. So, in all— there are 70 new articles that are being published onto the website with this massive update.

The Educational Guide

This section contains 21 articles which are about the process of music recording and how teachers and school districts can build their own educational multimedia production or music recording programs for their students and their school communities. There are articles about the processes of tracking, overdub recording, editing and mixing. Also, there are articles discussing the components of a recording studio and how each was used to record the great music of the past. For example, there are articles about how the great engineers of the past would have used microphone preamps, equalization units, dynamics processors and reverb units. There is a discussion of how the great engineers of the past would have used microphones to capture the sounds of the great music of the past and how they would have selected and used the fabulous monitor speakers that were so critical for them to be able to listen to for prolonged periods of time— to be able to do their amazing work. The final articles in this section discuss where professional audio products can be purchased and give students, teachers and school administrators advice on how to build either a multimedia production or music recording program to benefit their school community.

The Educational Guide is dedicated to the legendary recording studio engineers of the past and to the amazing engineers that I had the opportunity to work with while working as an assistant recording studio engineer in the professional music recording industry. I had the opportunity to both meet and or work with a number of amazing engineers who I also want to honor with my work in this update including: David Thoener, Steve Marcantonio, Mick Guzauski, Chuck Ainlay, Ron Treat, Mike Shipley, Csaba Petocz, Julian King, Ed Seay, Gene Eichelberger and John Guess. It has come to my attention that Csaba, Mike and Gene have each passed-away and I do want to recognize them with this work. I would also like to take the time to recognize Chuck Howard, Bob Campbell-Smith, Jeff Watkins, Craig White and Aaron Bowlin, who gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to be a member of their fabulous team and to be able to work in the professional music recording industry. And, I also write about my deep appreciation and thanks to the wonderful engineers who had honed their skills while working at The Record Plant in New York City, New York, one of the truly legendary recording studio facilities in the history of popular music recording. It was the place where such great engineers and producers as Jack Douglas, Shelly Yakus, Jay Messina, Jimmy Iovine, David Thoener and Steve Marcantonio started their amazing careers. Their influence on the world of professional music recording and my interest in even trying to become a very small part of it, is staggering-- to say the least. The articles in this guide have been written in dedication to them and to the person who mentored so many of them and gave them the opportunity to begin the process of launching their careers— the legendary engineer, Roy Cicala.

The Product Guide for Education

It has been truly wonderful to have the assistance and support of 45 of some of the very best professional audio companies who are developing the great products that professional artists, engineers, musicians and producers have used to create the popular music of the past. In some cases, I tried to find companies that make products today that sound like some of the great technologies of the past that sadly are no longer available to us (except maybe in software plugin form). 45 amazing companies have taken their time, energy and resources to be a part of this process. These companies— many of them— have been creating great technologies for the world of professional music recording since the 1960s and some of them, even before that point in time. The purpose of the guide is to simply introduce the products that are used in the world of professional music recording to students, educators, school administrators and to those who love the great music of the past.

The guide had three different inspirational sources— the first was my own experience in creating a multimedia program in the small, but wonderful rural school district in which I was educated and taught and the second was speaking with music educators over time and understanding that very few of them truly knew anything about how the music that had both inspired and brought them such joy throughout their lives was actually recorded or what products (technologies) were actually used to create it. The third inspiration was reading about a college program that had spent over $250,000 on just an analog console. It just seemed to me to be a waste of taxpayer dollars on the one hand, but, on the other, as recording studios are in a state of down-sizing and with so many small recording studio venues and home studios becoming of increasing importance, it also seemed to me that spending so much money on just a console was also creating an educational facility that would be unlike the professional experience that the students would actually step into upon their graduation. In fact, for $300,000, a traditional recording studio with a fabulous analog console, excellent microphones, amazing gear, great monitors and superb digital audio workstation software programs and plugins and even a second, smaller or traditional B-room facility could be created for an educational institution that would be far more applicable to preparing the students for both the music recording environment of the moment and of the moment to come and this set of facts is in a place on the site, as well.

The Database Landing Page

As I mentioned in the introduction, there are two new databases that have become an important component of the website.

The first database is there to honor the 168 recording studio engineers who worked on or recorded or mixed six number-one hit songs or three number-one hit albums (or both) during their professional careers. The songs and albums had to have charted on the Billboard Hot-100 singles chart, the Billboard Hot-200 albums chart, and or the Billboard charts for country or R&B music from 1958-2003. There are also 6 other individuals who were included in the database for making significant technical achievements to the world of professional music recording.

The second database is there to recognize each of the 1,090 recording studio facilities which were the sites where either a number one hit song or album was developed that topped the Billboard Hot-100 singles chart, the Billboard Hot-200 albums chart, and or the Billboard charts for country or R&B music from 1958-2003. I have also designated 64 of these recording studio facilities as legendary facilities for being the site where six or more artists recorded either a number-one hit song or an album during a particular decade of time. These recording studio facilities— just like the legendary engineers are recognized in a separate article on the site. (As a side note, I will be adding the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in the future, which will increase both the number of engineers and studio facilities in the databases. A number of great engineers did not make the database at this time, but will be featured in it during the next update.)

New Traditional Articles

There are four new traditional articles that will also appear on the website. The first is the biography of my friend, Mirco Mencacci, who after losing his vision in a childhood accident went on to develop one of the busiest recording studios in Europe, invent new techniques for recording sound for film and music and to become one of the great minds in music recording and sound design for film. The second article is the story of his fabulous recording studio facility, SAM World, which is located in the village in which he was raised, Lari, in the famed Tuscany region of Italy and the great work that the studio has done since opening its doors more than 30 years ago. The third article is a recording studio spotlight about the Sound Emporium— one of the 64 truly legendary recording studio facilities in the history of popular music and the wonderful work that continues to be done in this fabulous facility in Nashville, Tennessee. The fourth and final of the traditional articles is a company spotlight of Spectra1964— a company which produced some of the greatest consoles and equipment that were used to record the hit songs and albums in popular music during the period from 1964-1979. Today, the company has reemerged to continue to further the legacy of the great products that it had made to create the amazing and influential music of the past and to bring them to the great artists, engineers, musicians, producers and recording studio facilities of the present and the future. Plus, though they were published in September and helped to inspire the articles that are in this update, if you have not read the set of articles about the life and career of my friend, Steve Marcantonio, you should definitely give those a read.

The Update— Months in the Making

It has taken months to conduct the interviews, execute the research, write the articles and construct the databases for this update to the website project. However, it is my hope that it will benefit the educators, historians and writers who are interested in learning more about how the music of the past was produced. It is my hope to continue the website in this vein. It is my desire to continue writing about the lives and careers of the 168 recording engineers and those who made significant technical contributions to the world of professional music recording. There are 64 recording studio facilities which have achieved legendary status and as of this writing, only 30 of them remain open as facilities for the process of recording great music today. I plan on profiling each of the legendary studios that are on the list of 64 and placing their stories onto the website, alongside those of the great engineers of the past, so there will always be work to do with the site to make it what it should become-- but, with this crucial update, I have taken a serious step forward to begin the process of achieving this goal for it. I also want to continue adding stories of companies and technologies and with the educational product guide having just been completed, perhaps this component will become a bit easier to do, as well. The work that has been put into this set of updates for the site has given me the knowledge and ability to move forward in this vein much more easily as I now know so much more about the people, places and companies to contact than I did at this time last year when the site had just been launched and each of its components was in working order for the very first time. It is my hope that you enjoy the new updates and too, that the site is a great place for learning and gaining new knowledge with each and every visit.

Due to the NAMM Show being over the course of this past weekend, I have delayed the publication of all of the updates until Monday, April 18, 2023, at 9:00 AM. At that time, each component of the website will be fully available for everyone to enjoy. Have a great day!

Sincerely-- John Long


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