Clark Media Productions

The Virtual Trombonist

Clark Media Productions is a place for me to share my love of audio productions, music, trombone, and music technology.  Subscribe to my email list for late breaking blog posts, videos, and educational content!

Filtering by Category: Music creation

Economics of Audio Recording (or why you should pay good money to record your performance!)

 

A couple of years ago, I was interested in applying for a college teaching job near me, and I started combing through recent recordings I had of recitals I had done while I was a DMA student at Catholic University in Washington, DC.  I did five recitals as part of my degree program, and I felt like I had played quite well on most of them.  To my surprise and disappointment, I discovered that I had one pretty good recording of one recital, a very mediocre quality recording of another recital (that was also missing a couple of pieces), and a terrible quality (audio AND video) recording of my lecture recital.  To be fair, I had attempted to hire someone to record one of the recitals, but he never showed up!   Sigh.   

It’s no surprise that a recording engineer and producer would want to sell you on RECORDING.  I mean, that is, after all, how we afford all these cool microphones and all the other stuff that audio people drag around everywhere with them….!  However, I feel pretty passionate about WHY we make recordings, and especially when I relate it to my own experiences as a performing musician.  I mean, music is built on live performance, for better or worse.  The recording arts has given us so many different versions of performance, through all the “magic” that engineers can work, and the way that contemporary music is recorded and assembled.  But, what does that mean for you as a musician?  

Why spend hundreds of dollars recording a live recital?  I mean, if you’re like me, you don’t have money to burn, especially for something that doesn’t always seem critical to our growth and musical career.  Well, I’m here to tell you, you’re missing out! 

I’m sure you’ve heard about the “gig economy” until you’re blue in the face.  I know I have.  I get it.  But, one thing classical musicians haven’t done, at least not to a large extent, is to build a portfolio, at least one that is easily visible to the general public.  Portfolios are for visual artists, photographers, and graphic designers, right?  I would say that most classical musicians would even sneer or make derisive comments if you admitted you were putting together a “portfolio” of your best work.  I would also guess that those same musicians have little or nothing to show for their best performances, other than a nice memory. 

So, we can address the obvious question of why assemble a portfolio, or RECORDED HISTORY of you as an artist.  But, I think if you are reading this, you are already far enough ahead to know the many reasons that can be important.  So, let’s talk about what I think of when I think of hiring someone to record an important live performance….

A guy or girl with a Zoom recorder!  Yay!  That’s all I need!  

Well, OK, maybe that will suffice for you.  The above-mentioned recordings of my own recitals?  All recorded on a Zoom.  Now, I’m not knocking the venerable Zoom recorder.  These devices have a prominent place in the toolbox of many musicians and recording engineers. They serve a great purpose, and they have some amazing capabilities for such a small package.  But, after all the hard work, sweat, and tears you have shed over your instrument, don’t you want something worthy of sharing with the public, something that will still sound great 10 (or 50) years from now, and something that you can really use to show yourself in the very best light?  I know I do.  

"But Chris, I don’t have 300, 400, 600 dollars, or more to spend on a recital recording!!!"

Well, let me ask you a few questions:

How much did you pay your accompanist?

How many hours did you practice JUST for this one recital?

How much are you spending to get that crazy expensive degree from that amazing school?

How much do you stand to earn, OVER THE COURSE OF A CAREER, from getting hired for that tenure-track teaching gig, or getting invited to that audition, or winning that life-changing competition?  

Often times, recordings are the key to the gate.  The very first barrier to entry you come across.  Want to get invited to interview on campus?  Send a tape.  Want to get invited to that audition?  Send a tape. Want to get a spot at that prestigious summer festival?  Send a tape.  I’ve judged a number of high level competitions via recorded entries, and let me tell you, a quality recording puts you at a SIGNIFICANT advantage!

Here’s the basics that I offer when I record a live performance, and what I consider the best way to make FULL USE of the tremendous amount of work you have done:

  • High quality equipment.  That goes without saying.  Microphones that are complementary to the type of music and the instrument that you play.  You don’t have to know microphones yourself, but ask the prospective engineer about their sound concept when they record your instrument.  They should have a well articulated concept about how to begin, and be willing to have a dialogue with you about what you desire to hear from a recording.

  • Knowledgeable placement of those microphones!  Where should they go?  What kind of space are you performing in?  What are its limitations?  Should we try multiple things so that we have sonic options in post production?

  • An engineer that has a musical ear, and can also act as your producer.  

  • An engineer that shows up on time, without fail, and is set up long before you are ready to play.

  • A backup recording system...in case Murphy’s law strikes, your performance WILL be recorded, no matter what.

  • Reference video of your performance, recorded in a high quality format, with the final audio synced to the video

  • Recent examples of completed work for other clients, easily accessible for you to judge for yourself

  • Can the engineer remove excessive crowd noise, or HVAC system noise?  We’ve all had the person with the hacking cough or crinkley plastic bag making noise through the whole concert....

Those are just the basics.  Let’s talk about some other ways you can get the most out of your recording…

One excellent option to consider is to spend the extra money on a dress rehearsal recording.  While adding to the cost, this can have significant benefits.  First of all, this gives you flexibility to have both an un-edited live album or your performance, as well as a second edited performance using material from both the dress and the performance.  Most of us feel way more comfortable at our dress rehearsal than we do at the actual performance, and I find that many artists can have some quality backup material to use for their edited album, all recorded in the same space, with the same piano, and at the same level of preparation.  Again, you’re spending more up front, but in the end, you have more material and much more flexibility with what you can create from the one live performance.

Now, that takes care of the audio!  What about video?!  You know as well as I do, that video is THE medium for social media and internet presence.  If you are developing a Youtube channel, website, or Instagram stories, or you simply just want to send grandma a video of her precious baby to watch, you ought to consider video capture as well.  With high quality video gear, we’ve reached the point that you can pull still photos from the video footage, making it even more valuable.  

So, with audio recording, video recording, and recording the dress rehearsal, we’ve reached a fairly high price point, no?  Yes, we have!  But, consider all the time and energy you’ve put in to making a recital program performance ready, especially if we’re talking about the culminating performances of a degree program.  You may not be in this kind of shape, or have an opportunity to play a recital again for some time.  Take advantage of all that you can, and get the most out of your hard work and musicianship.  I guarantee you will create something that you can look back on with pride for years to come.  

 

 

Oz meets Texas!

In May of 2015, two trombonists met at a trumpet workshop, no less...

They knew their lives had reached a new low, hanging around trumpeters and such...

They decided they MUST. TAKE. ACTION.

Introducing....

WORLDWIDE BONE

Oz meets Texas

Australian composer and trombonist Brendan Collins
Trombonist Chris Clark

Jazz Duet No. 1, by Brendan Collins

Sometimes you get lucky in life and run into people you just really have a great time with!  Brendan, in addition to being a talented trombonist, is a fantastic composer.  He has written a large amount of brass music, and continues to write interesting and fun compositions!  He has recently written a great quintet that Valor Brass hopes to perform this year.  I also took his Trombone Hymn for 4 trombones and recorded that with some friends this spring - that is a really beautiful piece.  Check out his music and give it a play!  

Brendan has generously offered to make his Jazz Duet available as a free download here on the site.  You can get it HERE.  Please take the time to join the email list on the site as well if you download the piece!

For the video, Brendan recorded the top line at home in Australia, and I recorded the bottom line and put the two together for the video.  It was great fun collaborating in this way.  We are already looking to do some more virtual projects together soon!  Virtual projects can yield REAL results...cool!

Enjoy.


Recording a Visual Click Track in Logic Pro X

I know, I know... signal flow just isn't sexy to anybody except us audio geeks... well, maybe not even then... Anyways, I think figuring out how these new DAWs work is quite fascinating, and in my recent work on my visual click long tone practice, I have done a lot of work figuring out the process behind routing the klopfgeist to a track for recording.  Instead of a long blog post explaining the process, I decided to just make a video!  Thanks again for reading, and if you haven't subscribed, please fill out the subscription form at the bottom of the post.  Thanks!

 

Finding your Klopfgeist...wait, WHAAAAT???

In continuing my obsession with all things Logic Pro, I've taken an interest to something that, on the surface, seemed to be a pretty simple feature...the Klopfgeist! What is a Klopfgeist, you ask?  Well, check out the video to find out!  If you have any more questions about the Klopfgeist in Logic Pro, or other topics you would like me to cover, leave them in the comments!


Brendan Collins: Two Motets for Four Trombones

Last May, on a trip to the ITG (yeah, that's right, trumpet conference) conference in Ohio, I had the chance to meet an Aussie composer named Brendan Collins.  Rex Richardson performed his Trumpet Concerto at the conference, and besides enjoying the piece a lot, Brendan is a great guy, and we may or may not have shared a few beers while in Columbus.  I shared a copy of our new Valor Brass CD with Brendan, and we continued our correspondence throughout the rest of 2015, and I got to know him a little better.  He's a trombone player as well, so he's got that going for him!  He teaches and composes in Australia, and is busy writing all kinds of new music.  This winter, he sent me a copy of a trombone quartet he wrote called Two Motets.  The first movement, Sacred, is just beautiful!  The 2nd movement has a very playful syncopated motif throughout the piece that is a lot of fun to play, and lays very well on the trombone (just as you would expect from a trombonist-turned-composer)!  Brendan mentioned he would love to hear a recording if I ever had a chance to play the piece, so with my ongoing interest in audio production, it seemed like a great opportunity to do a small project that would benefit both of us in multiple ways.   We made the recording in one short session with some fun and extremely informative mentoring from a new colleague of ours, Christian Amonson.  Christian runs his own audio and video production company called Arts Laureate, and is as enthusiastic about audio as he is knowledgeable.  Here's a cool video Christian made about a recent production Arts Laureate did... Hope you enjoy the quartet!



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