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Recording The Sound of Yesterday Today!

My first experience in a studio was at my Dad’s place in Farmington N.H. back in 1972. I knew I  liked recording from a very early age. Things were pretty cool back in them days for a 13 year old guitarist. Dick Wagner was slamming out guitar licks on Alice Cooper’s “Schools Out” and Richie Blackmore was laying down the quintessential guitar players anthem “Smoke On The Water.”

The 70’s had some ground breaking music indeed and that was a great time to be learning guitar. That trip to Dad’s studio left a big impression on this kid. I wanted…  I needed to own a studio someday. I started thinking of the importance of writing original music and the desire to hear it on tape.

I bought some studio time at Tom Rowe’s studio in Auburn, ME. Tom was the bassist for the internationally acclaimed “Schooner Fare” and he had a sweet little 8 track facility in his shed. That was where I recorded the first version of  my first original song “Better Years” when I was 16. I recall Tom suggesting a solo on acoustic before the big lead solo. Very seventy’s indeed and it was a great idea.

In 1979 while living in Kennewick, WA I recorded at the legendary Kaye Smith recording studio in Seattle. The two room studio had a pair of API consoles and a Studor 24 track tape machine. Heart recorded “Barracuda” on the same console we used in studio B. That was my first taste of the big time recording machines. The sound we got was incredible. The Ampex 2 inch tape was expensive as hell and we barely had enough money to record the 2 songs we wrote.

In the 80’s like most other musicians I had various 4 track cassette recorders. I spent endless hours noodling away with my guitar and my brain’s third hemisphere that old tape machine. I went through a lot of girlfriends back then they didn’t appreciate the competition for my time I guess?

1985 I signed a recording contract with Brighton Road Productions a small artist management company run by my good friend Russell Whitaker. Russell built a studio in Austin Texas and later moved it up to Dallas. He named it The “Dallas Sound Lab” and it is still there. The name has changed to “Media Tech Institute” and the facility doubles as a school for the recording arts and sciences.

Russell and I became great friends over the years and I recorded several albums at his studio. Stevie Ray Vaughan, ZZ Top, Pantera have all recorded there and the list goes on and on. Tim Kimsey engineered a lot of my music and his skill behind that SSL SL6056E console was an inspiration to me. In 1997 Russell asked me to come work as an engineer at the lab. How could I refuse what I had considered a dream come true. To work at a world class facility.

While working there I had the opportunity to do some fantastic and tough engineering jobs. Half time commentary with Pat Sommerall and me engineering in Dallas, producers in N.Y. and the game was in L. A. all live on a ISDN lines! Whether it was Reverend Horton Heat in studio A or Tiger Woods dad in studio D it was always something big. I remember Russ calling me after I had just left the studio and a long day of editing and saying “Get your ass back down here U2 will be here in 1 hour and your assistant engineer! Then there was the time we did ADR for a movie called Titanic.

Family obligations sent me packing and I had to move back to Maine. So I thought maybe it’s time to spend some money on a home studio? A real one that would be sonically and economically feasible. Bought a Mac G5 and Pro Tools. One of the best investments I have ever made. Been laying down tracks ever since and getting a decent sound like the big rooms.

Recording songs like “Oasis” and Waylon Jennings  “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” has been a blast. Add the fact that I can do it on my own time at home and relatively cheap. I have even had all my old 2 inch 24 track analog tapes and 24 track digital stuff converted to DVD’s so I can load em up in PT and have a modern go at them. A good example of this would be “The Cowboy Song” an old tune by The Amazing Rhythm Aces we recorded in Dallas. I used drums from 1987 and laid guitar and vocals in 2007 at home.

It’s fun recording the sound of yesterday today!

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11 Responses to “Recording The Sound of Yesterday Today!”
  1. Warm Gums Warm Gums says:

    I once had to drop a recording course in college ’cause I couldn’t afford the required reel of 2″

  2. Tele Fan Tele Fan says:

    Hey Arlo, could you suggest some stuff for a low budget studio, or a good reference for that information? My wife and I are looking for a house and the first thing I’m planning to do is set up a little recording studio. Thanks.

  3. Arlo Arlo says:

    You can go in many directions with a home studio. Budget usually dictates any studio design to some degree. I know I was trying to keep two things in mind when I started my studio. Budget and Quality. I can’t really make recommendations but I certainly can tell you what I have.

    Mac G5 dual 2.7 [Purchased in 2006 and it is time for an upgrade to a quad core] $4500
    8 gigs ram

    Digidesign 002 Rack $1200

    Digidesign Command 8 $1000

    Pro Tools 8, Waves Plug Ins and soft synths $6500

    Focusrite, DBX, Pre Sonus and various outboard gear $3500

    Mic’s $4000

    Add in a desk, sound proofing, adapters, monitors, speakers and cables $5000

    And I have somewhere around $25,700

    Not exactly low budget but more middle of the road. There are a lot of other options that are cheaper. Do your DD and read up on whats out there. A good PC with a decent sound card and multi track software can go a long way. I could probably through a low budget studio together for under $3000

  4. Tele Fan Tele Fan says:

    Thanks Arlo. I think it’s time to start saving up.

  5. Arlo Arlo says:

    Here is a FOSTEX 16 track for $449 has a lot of bells and whistles.

    Everything you would need in one unit including a CD burner and 40gb HD.

    Fostex MR16HD 16-Track Digital Recorder

    Read the reviews. 9 out of 10

  6. Hey Arlo, how ’bout letting us see that pic just a little bigger? Great article, by the way. I knew you had history, but wow.

  7. Arlo Arlo says:

    Here are a couple for ya.

    This one is Tim Kimsey and myself in studio A at the Dallas Sound Lab around 1987

    This one is same room around 1990-91

    Here is one of SRV at the same console around 1986

  8. elmerbumpkin elmerbumpkin says:

    did you know any of the guys (Rueben, Kerry) over at Goodnight Audio in big D?

    I took a course there and then got an internship there (late 80s).

  9. Albertm Albertm says:

    I actually live in Farmington NH and will be building my recording studio next year

  10. After a friend of mine who himself is a fantastic musician as well as a respected Ad man ( TV / radio commercials) talked me into going Mac & Pro tools for the creation of our CD we also entered the magical world of modern recording.
    Not being of the computer generation it has been an uphill battle but I will say that once the first one is out of the way your pretty much home free to continue to record without the huge expense of continuous studio time.
    The project is still in the infant stage and the one thing I can say is that the technology has opened the recording world up to John Q Public which in my mind is a quantum leap forward for all of us.

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