Trip to Kaleidoscope Studio
Learning on the road at Kaleidoscope Sound
A recent trip to Kaleidoscope Sound helped students in Sean Harty’s Sound Production class put together all the information they learned this year, expand their knowledge, and start a new journey into the professional world of audio production.
The studio, located in Union City, New Jersey, is an award-winning production space that specializes in rock, jazz, fusion and pop, along with some Broadway post-production work.
The studio is owned by Randy Crafton, who, according to the studio’s website, wanted it to operate with a simple premise: “All music, no attitude.”
“Topics that Sean Harty has been discussing throughout the year started to make sense,” student Michael Asher said after the tour on April 25.
Mr. Harty said the trip not only showed his students more about what they have learned, but also provided an opportunity for them to see a full drum set put together, the techniques you need to know and the daily happenings of a studio which is something they can’t do on campus. In addition, he said, students heard and got a hands on lesson on how to do a live pre-mix and see a reel-to-reel analogue recorder in action.
The day started with the students taking a tour of the facilities. The studio consists of the main studio “A” and the newer studio “the patio.”
Most of the lessons for the day were in the live room in studio “A,” where students received an in-depth look at a drum set.
Engineers talked about what size drums to choose depending on musical styles, placement of the drums and type of music being played, as well as choosing the right microphones for the job, capturing the sound of the room and organization.
The studio was rearranged so the students could see Head Engineer Kyle Cassel’s computer presentation as they learned and practiced setting up the drums and microphones. Senior Anthony DiGilio tried miking the tom drum but had some issues. Thankfully, Mr. Cassel and Assistant Engineer Jeremy Delaney helped him out.
Student Adam Pascual was interested in seeing how a drum set was set up and how different microphones were included. The experience was hands-on and students were surrounded by guitar cabinets, organs, Leslie cabinets (a loudspeaker that projects the signal from an electronic instrument and modifies the sound by rotating a baffle chamber in front of the loudspeakers), drum gear, a grand piano and more.
After setting up the drums, the students followed the engineers to the control room, where the learning became more intense and comprehensive. There is a mix of cutting-edge technology and vintage gear in the control room, which was big enough to accommodate all 25 students. The studio also uses a 48-channel API Legacy Plus console.
In the control room, Mr. Cassel started going drum by drum, having guest drummer Dan Drew hit each drum while he set up the gain levels to hear what the drum sounded like through the microphone. It was a real-life music session, even with Mr. Delaney having to move some microphones and create a makeshift tunnel between the kick drum and microphone to get a better sound and less bleed through from other drum parts. It was a long process that taught the students about the patience and discipline that is needed.
Next, they got a chance to use the console, equalizers and compressors to get the right balance among the drum parts. Mr. Cassel explained what each gear does and how they work together.
The last part of the trip was learning how to use the patch bay. Students had a chance to listen to the drums being recorded digitally and then on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. The patch bay is a device that allows them to send the signal of the microphone to any studio gear and back to the console. Students had a chance to sit down and get hands-on experience on how the complicated device works.
“I didn’t think it was this complicated but it’s great to see how it all works. I love the patch bay, but it’s really tough, I need more time using it,” said Liam Vanderberg, a senior from New Rochelle High School.
Students also learned more about the business and customer service side of owning and working at a studio. Mr. Cassel was determined to make this trip a journey through what a typical day in a studio looks like, what it takes to make it in the business, the jobs of an intern and the skills they need to develop to be successful.
The trip ended with comparing the drums in a digital signal versus analog using the Otari M90 reel-to-reel recorder. There was also a question and answer period during which students asked about internships, the personal journeys of the engineers and for any advice they can give them.
“Every second I was learning something new,” Paul Ingrassia, a senior at Valhalla High School, said. “I enjoyed miking the acoustic drum set.”
“I think it was a very useful tour,” Taykeme Griffith, a junior at New Rochelle High School, said. “It showed you what it is like to be in a studio, how stressful it can be and how to make it sound good on the spot.”
“It showed us how it looks inside a studio, rather than the Hollywood version. It was a good experience,” Maurice Banton, a junior from New Rochelle High School, said.