Education & Career

AES Student Blog

November 2012

student recording competition finalist and award winner: Tad Nicol

We are happy to post some interviews with the student recording competition winners of the AES133 in San Fransico. Congratulations again!

bronze award winner of category 3 (modern studio recording): Tad Nicol


SDA: Tell us a little bit about you.

Tad: I hail from the East side of the San Francisco Bay Area, five minutes away from downtown Berkeley. I’m currently attending the Music Engineering Technology program at the University of Miami in Florida. As a “MuE” (pronounced mew-ee by us music engineers), I’m immersed in what’s really a nexus of music performance, computer science, and electrical engineering. I’m insanely lucky because I literarily get to do everything that was on my college wish-list (and much more that I wasn’t aware of).

SDA: Tell us about the production of your competition entry. How long did you work on it? Was it your first entry? Stories? Inspirations?

Tad: The Hope Design began last winter as a collection of sampling into Reaktor, exporting to Logic, chopping, warping, editing and repeating the process until I had some appealing soundscapes. half a year later on the other side of the country the vocals were recorded and cinematic arrangements composed. Musically, it was inspired by Left to Tell, an autobiography about a woman in the Rwandan Holocaust who had to hide in a bathroom for several months among other hardships. Before my friend had given me the book, I could have never even conceived that a massive haloucost had occurred so close to when I was born.

SDA: What initiated your passion for audio?

Tad: I was always into albums and their respective “soundscapes”. It wasn’t really until I heard the likes of BT & Hybrid that I began pondering excitedly “Oh my god how are they getting these sounds?” Among my more current heros are Joanna Newsom, Flying Lotus, and Amon Tobin to name a few. I fell more in love with technologically engineered music during each long road trip my family would take across the Western landscape. I would stare out the window for hours, listening to album after album. This habit nurtured within me a very intimate connection between landscapes and music.

SDA: How did the AES help you on your way of being a successful audio engineer?

Tad: Inspiration. I went back to home everyday fired up to dive deeper into audio engineering.

SDA: What are your highlights of the AES133 in San Francisco?

Tad: Well apart from traversing the span of SF with fellow MuEs at night, I really enjoyed Poppy Crum’s talk on current medical science regarding the inner ear. Meeting so many audio engineers was pretty memorable (I have a stack of business cards sitting up on my shelf). The expo was great too, but where was Native Instruments???

SDA: What was your funniest experience as an engineer so far?

Tad: While I was recording The Hope Design, actually, I tried messing around with a Neumann “dummy” head stereo mic by placing it in the room to capture room reflections. I didn’t know, however, that the threads on the bottom of the head were broken. Somehow I managed to get the thing up on the atlas stand (by standing on a chair) and “screw” it in. But as I was walking away the head started to fall! Luckily my parents had the foresight to enlist me in many sport teams as a kid, so I was able to lunge and catch it before my entire college career smashed to pieces. Funny thing, though, is that the head has threads on the top also so I was still able to use it but only upside down.

SDA: Can you tell us your biggest mistake you made during a production?

Tad: Well once I was recording a pseudo-barbershop quartet me and my friends were in called “Smokey Mike and the Foreplay”. We were using my ol’ iMac G5 with Logic 7 and recording a monologue breakdown. Those iMacs had particularly noisy fans, and I didn’t notice the thing whirring away in the background while in the heat of the moment. On the final mix it always sounds like the guy is in a helicopter or something.

SDA: What is the best recording of all time?

Tad: One of my favorite compilations of all time is Hybrid’s Soundsystem_01. The first disc is a 54.5 minute dreamworld of cinematic/electro acoustic blend (It’s a continuos mix of 15 songs). It’s an especially nice break from modern 2 minute, chiclet-saturated radio music. I highly, highly recommend this record for literarily anybody into music and movies.

SDA: Do you play any instruments?

Tad: I’m in the Jazz department at UM’s Frost School of Music. I play lots of tenor and soprano saxophone (there are bits and pieces of my saxophone playing strewn throughout my electronic music). I’ve also been playing the piano since very young, and consider it my first great love.

SDA: Any other hobbies?

Tad: Mountain biking, backpacking, yttp, boba-testing, crafting/scheming/writing up audio/music ideas in my notebook (check out my website, I’ll be posting all the software/hardware I’m designing and most of them will be free!)

SDA: Where do you want to be in 10 years?

Tad: Somewhere in a dynamic landscape, perhaps a another country, doing what I love to do most—writing music and engineering audio! One last note: For those of you interested, my recording The Hope Design, will be released in the early spring of 2013 under my alias Muir ( Until then, my first record, Prismatic, will be released this December!

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012

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student recording competition finalist and award winner: Thomas Hauser

We are happy to post some interviews with the student recording competition winners of the AES133 in San Fransico. Congratulations again!
bronze award winner of category 2 (traditional studio recording): Thomas Hauser
SDA:Tell us a little bit about you.

Tom: I grew up and currently live in Winston-Salem, NC, earning my MFA in Film Scoring at UNC School of the Arts. I earned my BM in Sound Recording Technology from Ithaca College in 2008, where I studied with Alex Perialas and Brian Dozoretz.  The audio field I prefer is music production for picture, though I also work in production and post production sound.

SDA: Tell us about the production of your competition entry. How long did you work on it? Was it your first entry? Stories? Inspirations?

Tom: Rosemary Gingerich is a friend of mine through church, and we had talked several times about collaborating in some fashion.  She first piqued my interest when she told me she played accordion, and I had just finished producing a film score with accordion.  Over the 6 months we've know each other, she's really started to hone her song writing craft, and learned how to play guitar and hammered dulcimer.  When I was asking around for folks to record something for AES in traditional multitrack, our mutual friend (and also killer sing-songwriter) David Olinger suggested I record Rosemary, as she was coming up with really great music and had never recorded before.  Luke Skaggs, David's room mate (and also son of the famous Ricky Skaggs), joined the project and played all the electric guitar and percussion tracks as well as harmony vocals.

We recorded on two Sunday afternoons in the UNCSA scoring stage, which I would characterize as a moderately tripped out recording space.  I say moderately because it's designed for film, so while there is an Icon D-Control with some great plugins and mic pres (Grace m802s with AES cards) and some great JBL 6332 monitors in 5.1 surround sound, there isn't any outboard gear, which is something I grew up with at Ithaca for doing serious music production.  I used my small collection of Neumanns (1 TLM 67 and 2 KM 140s) out of safety and efficiency's sake more than aesthetic choice.  The TLM 67 was the close mic on everything but acoustic guitar, which was miced by the KM 140s.  On the other tracks I used the KM 140s in a spaced pair for some natural reverb.  The scoring stage hall is very reverberant, and Luke Skaggs loved the sound, especially when beating the gran cassa (bass drum for the uninformed). 

The percussion tracks were definitely the most spontaneous aspect of producing the song.  Rosemary had to run to Luke's/David's to get a tambourine while we tracked gran cassa.  Luke had some ankle bells tied to one of his guitar cases, so we had him put them on and stomp in time with the tambourine.  I cut the bass drum and tambourine/bells tracks into a quasi kick/snare pattern on my own in editing.

If you'd like to hear my entry, Rosemary has it currently on bandcamp (Where He Goes).

I previously submitted entries in 2007 and 2011 in New York, as a senior at Ithaca and my first year in grad school respectively.  Becoming a finalist has been a dream of mine since my first AES in 2005.  I'm incredibly honored to have finally become one.

SDA: What initiated your passion for audio?

Tom: My local public school system offered an elective in electronic music at the Career Center (AP classes, special electives, vocational courses, kind of like community college but still high school), which covered the basics of audio recording and midi sequencing.  I clearly remember at the time wondering how my favorite songs sounded so good.  After digging a little into audio, I realized it was a serious skill to get recordings to sound great, as my recordings sounded terrible!  Granted, we had to use Tascam four-track cassette recorders, so that didn't help.    I was a great student, and audio recording was completely different from the world of being good at school for the sake of being good at school.  It challenged me then, as it does now, and it is something that actually has meaning, unlike the essays I had to write on Heart of Darkness and The Sound and The Fury back in high school.

SDA: How did the AES help you on your way of being a successful audio engineer?

Tom: AES definitely gave me goals like becoming a finalist in the recording competition, which forged growth through experience.  Various workshops and lectures at AES broadened my audio horizons, and fueled my continued commitment to keep doing audio engineering as a career.

SDA: What are your highlights of the AES133 in San Francisco?

Tom: 1) Having two very nice conversations with Morten Lindberg, my surround sound music hero from Norway.
2) Getting to say hello again to Lon Bender (a previous guest artist at UNCSA) and see his enthusiasm and encouragement over being a finalist and having one of my films, which he had critiqued, play at Cannes this summer.
3) Getting to meet Jason LaRocca, the score mixer for Once Upon a Time.  His wife was uber nice and introduced us.  Once Upon a Time is my not-so-secret guilty pleasure TV show.

SDA: What was your funniest experience as an engineer so far?

Tom: I worked on a horror short called "Flush with Fear" as production sound mixer/boom op.  The whole thing was shot in a men's bathroom, and it seemed the scarier it was, the more we laughed between takes.  In a similar film with the same director called "Foodie", one scene had a guy screaming and running around until being knocked out with a rolling pin after his eyes had been yanked out by our hero.  Once "cut" was called after the last and best take, the whole crew doubled over in laughter.

SDA: Can you tell us your biggest mistake you made during a production?

Tom: Having my headphones turned up too loud and having the gain too low on a film production.  My boss was a very nervous person and not much of a post guy, and got more upset than was probably warranted when he checked the sound files at the end of the day.  Fortunately it was fine in the dub. 

SDA: What is the best recording of all time?

Tom: I'm afraid to answer this, as I'll probably come off as ignorant of music recording history.  Who has time to listen to every thing?  I will say that my favorite recording thus far is Tronheim Solistene's track DIPLOM-Abelvaer from their album In Folk Style.  In 5.1 especially, it's pretty incredible.  Morten Lindberg, you're welcome.

SDA: Do you play any instruments?

Tom: I play saxophone and I sing.  I spend most of my music time humming/whistling melodic lines and midi sequencing that into Pro Tools.  I'm really enjoying jazz arranging class at the moment. 

SDA: Any other hobbies?

Tom: Yoga, working out at the gym.

SDA: Where do you want to be in 10 years?

Tom: I'd like to be a music editor cutting temp tracks for studio features and composing scores for independent films. Short of that, steadily employed as an engineer!


Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012

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Fourth Annual "Welcome to 1979" Summit


Attention Nashville-area recording enthusiasts!


The fourth annual Welcome to 1979 Summit will be held this weekend, November 9-11 in Nashville, TN.


It’s more than a summit, it’s a chance to have a conversation with some of the most insightful producers/engineers the industry has to offer. Panels will be informal and conversational to aid in getting to the heart of how they have managed to make a living while making great records. Topics will range from the technical side of recording to the creative aspects of engineering and producing and will venture off into the less talked about topics such as how to determine a rate for your services. With award winning panelists from all over the country, this will prove to be the best bang-for-the-educational-buck of the decade!

Click here to learn more.


Posted: Monday, November 5, 2012

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