Meeting Topic: An Evening with Fred Breitberg
Speaker Name: Fred Breitberg
Meeting Location: Shure Incorporated, 5800 W. Touhy Ave, Niles, IL 60714
An Evening with Fred Breitberg (YouTube Video)
The November 25, 2014, meeting of the Chicago AES Section was held at Shure Incorporated, located in Niles, Illinois. Seventeen members and eighteen non-members attended the meeting which included Fred Breitberg's presentation and playback of several impressive recordings.
A Chicagoland native and resident, Fred Breitberg has over 40 years of experience in sound design and/or post production for commercials, CD's, and motion pictures/soundtracks or TV specials. Examples range from McDonalds to United Airlines, Neil Diamond to Muddy Waters, and Aretha Franklin to the Chicago Jazz Orchestra.
Fred began his presentation by giving us some insight to his background. He has over forty years of audio experience which began with an early interest in his parents' home hi-fi system (a large wooden cabinet with a single — mono speaker), becoming a Jazz buff in high school, to working as a Jazz DJ and then running the control room in college. Out of college, he worked as a tape-op apprentice at a recording studio called 'Audio Finishers' which mostly did commercials and helped Fred to 'pay the bills'. There he got to work on their new 16-track system, worked with Bill Putnam, and make several recordings that could have up to thirty musicians at one time. He recalled that "back then in the 60's" noisy mics were not noticed as noisy since they were connected to the 'noisy' analog gear. Processing the tapes added noise and tape hiss...so now today — he is very happy to work in the 'quieter' digital domain.
Fred then spent three years at Universal where he was exposed to location recordings which mostly consisted of recording small, medium, and large choirs in various churches. In between sessions, he worked at a cassette tape duplication factory. He then went to Chess Records and got to work in the 'big room' using tube & ribbon microphones and a 3M tape recorder. He learned to master, use fading and stereo techniques, and 'punch-ins' with the musicians. There he first began to consider himself an anthropologist...capturing a moment in time with people playing instruments. Capturing the 'human moment' has always been intriguing to him. He has always told his family, "What I am is a salesman and anthropologist and an audio guy."
From Chess, Fred went to work with Curtis Mayfield (Natalie Cole) to Streeterville (did commercial spots during the day and records at night) to Red Label in Winnetka, Illinois. In between, he would free-lance which enabled him to get into television where he mostly did post-production work — including 30 weeks per year at CBS.
Fred then transitioned to talking about his recording experiences which included photos and audio samples of a few key sessions. He has over 26 microphones in his personal collection and he commonly uses ribbon microphones due to their sonic texture and ability to take transients. He said that he is often called the 'figure 8 guy' since he so-often uses bi-directional ribbon microphones. Audio sessions that he presented included the CRC Studio (on Ohio Street), Western Michigan University, The Mainstage (recording the Chicago Jazz Orchestra), and IVY Lab (where he used his newly acquired KSM313 ribbon microphones on all of the instruments except where he placed a pair of KSM32 and KSM353 mics over the drums).
The Chicago AES Section would like to extend a special thank you to Fred Breitberg for speaking to our section and providing visual and audible examples of his sessions as true examples of his work and talent.
Written By: Ken Platz