Making a CD: Process Details

So I have a teaching studio at the music store with a very old Mac and a digital keyboard, a small recording setup in the outhouse, and a friend with some professional studio equipment. How do you use that kind of setup to create student CDs?

Step 1: Record the students
Each student and I had obviously been working on several pieces for a couple of weeks. We had even done some “practice” recording, so the kids would realize that they often didn’t hear their mistakes, so they needed to really focus when practicing, to quash the errors.

Because I was using MIDI, I didn’t have to do the standard practice of pushing record, and then cueing the student to start. I pressed record whenever, and then let the student start when they were ready. If there was a false start, I just let the sequencer keep rolling.

The kids did NOT play to a metronome (or click) – there was no real need. When there was a teacher’s accompaniment part to record, I played it on a second track, roughly trying to play in sync. I primarily was concerned with getting my timing close to theirs, and playing all the correct notes. Timing errors could be fixed later (again, becuase of using MIDI).

I had to record the accompaniment right then because of time constraints, and because I didn’t necessarily have access to that music later.

Each student was placed in a separate file and saved to floppy (I did mention this was an old Mac, right?).

Step 2: Editing
I transported the files down to the MaconOutHouse, where I loaded them into EzVision on my powerMac G3. I decided early on not to do much editing. I wanted to strike a balance between letting the recording be a snapshot of the student’s performance, and making it listenable.

I did splice together one student’s performance at a section break – i.e. I used Section A from Take 1, and Section B from Take 2, primarily because of time. (We didn’t have time in the lesson for another take). The only other editing I did on the student’s performacnes was to delete dead air at the beginning and ending of their performances.

The “teacher accompaniments”, however, underwent some serious editing. I tried to get the accompaniment to line up as closely as possible with the kid’s performances. In the case of my rambunctious 5-year-old twins, this was quite a challenge!

Step three: Drop the Audio!
At this point, all the MIDI files were cleaned up, so it was time to get the audio onto a hard drive.

The G3 was used to drive my Roland RD-700sx, which provided the piano sounds. It is hooked up to a Mackie Micro1202VLZ, and then into the audio interface to my Mac Mini. I recorded the audio using Soundtrack Pro (but could have just as easily used Garageband, or even the freeware Audacity. )

To make it easier to tell which was the student part and which the teacher’s, I used the “Superior Grand” sound for the kid’s part, and usually an electric piano sound for the teacher’s.

So basically: Start the audio recording. Play the midi file. Save the recording – making sure I named the file something appropriate.

Step four: collect the parts
I had previously worked up a graphic for the CD – just a picture of a piano keyboard. I forwarded this on to my friends down at ShadowSound studio. I also zipped up each student’s files, and used to transfer the files to them.

ShadowSound took the files and created the CDs using their CD burner/printer. They looked great!

I mailed them out the day after everything was complete.

Coming up in the series: Decision, Reactions, and other ways to do the same thing.

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