UCO‘Almost from the beginning, there were students who were interested in learning in the studio, so an apprenticeship programme developed. Music technology courses developed and we added – to our knowledge – the only Master of Music Jazz Studies Degree with a Major in Music Production in the US.’

From the outset, Jazz Lab Recording Studio Director Brian Gorrell was central to the action and to recent developments...

Gorrell’s Jazz Lab Recording studio is part of the University of Central Oklahoma. In summer 2011, the university took delivery of an Audient ASP8024 console as a part of a major upgrade to the facility. Music technology retailer Sweetwater won the bid to provide the equipment and Gorrell oversaw its installation, ensuring it was up and running in time for the first classes of the 2011/12 academic year.

Jazz Lab Recording Studio‘Combining the Graduate Jazz Degree with Music Production makes perfect sense to us because so many creative professionals in music production are required to be musical chameleons – to make quick, intuitive, creative decisions, and have great ears in general,’ he explains. ‘This is just as true for engineers as for musicians and producers. We feel being a well-trained jazz musician with technology skills is the perfect match for the ultra competitive music industry that has changed so dramatically in the past 15 years.

Now into its second semester, the choice of mixing console was central to the viability and value of the course.

‘I spent the better part of six months researching all of the available options that would fit our overall recording studio upgrade budget,’ Gorrell recalls. ‘There are many options on the market today, but it seemed every option meant some type of compromise for us. The many digital consoles offer unending routing flexibility, but at the cost of clarity for teaching purposes, and the lack of any sort of real analogue character.

‘After deciding we wanted some type of analogue/digital hybrid the search narrowed. The ASP8024 with the addition of the DLC [Dual Lauer Control module] was the only option in our budget range that fit the bill perfectly. I loved the idea of a fully in-line 24-channel analogue console with the integration of the DLC for HUI type control, along with the fully integrated and substantial patchbay.’

Tools for teaching

‘The ASP8024 is excellent for teaching because of the clear design layout and pure analog in-line design architecture,’ Gorrel says. ‘The fact that every student needs to master the basics of signal flow is essential, and with the typical in-the-box laptop based systems that so many people are using, they simply don’t get the chance to really ‘get it’. The ASP8024 however integrates well with the DAW environment and students get to experience all of this at one large-format, real-world console.

‘I like the familiarity of the 24-channel in-line design, as many engineers and producers – like myself – that came up in the 1980s and 1990s spent time on these types of consoles,’ he continues. ‘I especially love the quality of the 24 matched preamps and the very nice EQ as well. The flexibility to route portions of the EQ to both the Short Fader and Long Fader is very usable for us.

‘Although the patchbay– being very “British” in design – took a minute to get used to for us, we now love the layout and the great flexibility it is giving us for a variety of situations. The layout of the console itself is very logical, clean and fairly intuitive. Our students thus far have been thrilled to work on this console, and now feel they are getting a true professional studio experience in our degree programme.’

Jazz Lab Recording StudioNow celebrating its ten-year anniversary, the UCO Jazz Lab Recording Studio has changed over the years. When it opened in January 2002, Gorrell was hired to build a recording studio and make it a profitable commercial business as one aspect of the Jazz Lab facility.

‘Today, our updated studio is used 80 per cent of the time for recording sessions with our students (both undergrads and grads) and about 20 per cent with commercial outside clients,’ Gorrell explains.

‘I am using the desk for tracking sessions, mixing, mastering, and teaching our courses with students – that includes Computer Music Technology, Advanced Recording Technology, CD Album Pre-Production, and CD Album Production. We love the fact that three or four students at a time can sit at the console and be involved in the process, it has provided the level of professionalism we needed.

‘Along with upgrading to the ASP8024 last summer, we also purchased Pro Tools HD Native with two of the new Avid I/O interfaces; we purchased a four-channel API outboard preamp that sounds great, but I must admit I find myself just using the preamps on the ASP8024 most of the time because they simply work fantastic and sound ultra-clean. We also purchased a new compliment of mics that includes typical Neumanns, Pelusos, Audio-Technicas and Earthworks.’

Monitoring is now handled by Genelec 1032A Monitor Speakers and the studio has a new iso booth – the Whisper Room. For recording, the studio uses Pro Tools 9 and Logic Pro. ‘However, my DAW of choice is Digital Performer, which I find to offer an incredibly well balanced and logical feature set,’ Gorrell says.

‘I love using the ASP8024 for in-class recording sessions, when the students are tasked with setting up headphone cue mixes and must think through a hundred small signal routing and mixing decisions with a typical five-piece band. The ASP8024 allows us multiple choices of how to accomplish this task, and none are incorrect. I think there is an inherent creative aspect to engineering, and our new console is helping greatly in this regard.

‘Another class project is to take a 24-track project in-the-box and route each individual track back out to the ASP8024. My students get the chance to physically put there hands on the console and put together a basic mix “old school”. This is an important and missing skill that the laptop brigade doesn’t understand.’

The courses being taught with the ASP8024 include a series of four graduate courses in connection with the Master of Music in Jazz Studies with a Major in Music Production: Computer Music Technology, Advanced Recording Technology, CD Album Pre-Production, and CD Album Production.

‘The courses have changed for sure,’ Gorrel admits. ‘Although we have only completed one semester since the upgrade, it is obvious the console is providing my grad students with a real world professional environment to learn and grow as musicians, producers, and engineers. Our program is designed to give each person training in all three of those areas. The console is putting a greater focus on engineering, signal flow, and patchbay use for sure!

The University of Central Oklahoma

Although a ‘regional state university’ by definition, UCO is a forward-thinking school.

‘From the fine arts perspective, we have the only nationally recognized jazz studies programme in Oklahoma, and one of the more respected jazz programmes in the Midwest,’ Gorrell says. ‘The UCO Jazz Lab facility is a one-of-a-kind experience – our students study and perform under one roof and have the opportunity for more live performance experiences every semester than most any jazz programme in the US. In addition to the Jazz Lab and our Master’s in Jazz degree, we offer a full complement of standard music coursework and are in the process of adding undergraduate degree offerings in Music Production in the near future.

‘In downtown Oklahoma City, three years ago we started the ‘ACM@UCO’. This is the Academy of Contemporary Music at UCO. There is connection to the original programme in Guildford, England, and this has been an innovative programme as well – another partnership with our friends across the pond.’

‘We have a larger focus on recording acoustic instruments than modern electronic pop stuff. Although our students have examples of many styles of music from rock to reggae, the focus is mostly based around acoustic instrumentation and jazz music. This year we have also established a scholarship scheme for a deserving Music Production student, with the kind help of local benefactor Rusty Aldridge.

More: www.audient.com

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