Meeting Topic: Tape Day at Primary Sound Studios
Speaker Name: Jake Belser, Owner, Primary Sound Studios
Meeting Location: Bloomington, IN, USA
On February 10, 2019, the Indiana University AES Chapter hosted a full analog/tape-based recording session at Primary Sound Studios with accomplished engineer and IU AESP faculty, Jake Belser. Jake taught the students in attendance the proper steps to calibrate a Studer A80 mkII 24 track 2" analog tape machine.
In the morning session, each student had the opportunity to calibrate individual channels, feed tape through the reels, and adjust the heads in accordance to frequency tests. For the afternoon session, we brought in a local band, Secret Mezzanine, for a recording session to tape. Jake guided the students through proper mic techniques for drums, amplifiers, room and vocal mics, and even a Leslie model keyboard.
Primary Sound Studios is situated within an old church, and has recently been rewired acoustically treated to make it an affordable and effective recording studio in Bloomington. Jake has been working as a professional audio engineer for over 20 years and is well known for his knowledge and impeccable ear. He gave the students insight into the life of a recording engineer, as well as a studio owner, all while teaching about the history of tape and proper tape usage.
Many IU AES members are Audio Engineering and Sound Production majors, and study with Jake. As a result, the students felt very comfortable and Jake was able to give insight into his career and work that may not come up in a regular lecture. During the recording session, students were invited to manage the recording of two songs, while Jake assisted. Both required full band tracking, as well as overdubs, which gave the students a great opportunity to learn the ups and downs of how tape works in these situations. These included constantly having to check channels to make sure they're functioning properly, dealing with noise and hiss, keeping track of record time to make sure tape does not run out, punching in individual channels and erasing what was previously there for overdubs. Many of these steps were very different from how we're used to working in digital. However, there is undoubtedly something exciting about recording to tape; the engineer has to be constantly aware of what is going on, and for many if not all of the students there, it was their first time recording to tape and an experience they will not forget. We would like to thank Jake Belser and Secret Mezzanine for donating their time to us for an entire Sunday. We hope to be able to host this event again in a year or two, and would love to continue working with the band, as they were very respectful of Jake's studio and time. Jake's valuable advice and knowledge was greatly appreciated by everyone in attendance and will help all of us grow as audio engineers.
Written By: Ben Wesenberg