Skip to main content


Lesson 1 from: Gear Gods presents Studio Pass: Kurt Ballou

Kurt Ballou

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

1. Introduction

Lesson Info


Everyone my name's kurt pollux and we're here today creative life dot com teo talk about recording the video you saw was a band called nice lives who were nice enough to come out to my studio god city tio do some pre taping for this class and as you see we're in a tv studio now there's logistic challenges when trying to bring a tv studio into a recording studio and vice versa so that's that's why we're here today in the tv studio but did a lot of filming in in my studio and I'm gonna keep referring to that filming over the course eso you guys get up get a feel for what it's like to be in my studio doing work there but a cz russ said earlier infants that earlier most of what I do is is you know not not specific to a specific location or specific a group of equipment it's really mohr about techniques and in this course is going to try to talk about technique and howto howto apply these techniques to whatever your recording environment happens to be. So again the band that I but I got to ...

help me out there called nice hopes and if you hear we refer to their names over the course of the video I'm talking about those guys so we got dave on vocals tony on drums, randall on erin on guitar kenny on base and there good good friends mine in nice enoughto come out to my studio let me let me get me pig on them and take them over there over a weekend and uh yeah so thank thank you guys again for being here and watching this class both both my studio audience and my my internet audience. One thing that russ and finn didn't mention that we're going to do is if you if you purchase the class there's set of river river of impulses that I made in my studio that they were offering to you for free free download if you purchased the class and those air done with a if you have a convolution reverb plug these impulses into men mint esso I did was I modeled some of the key outboard gear that I have in my studio as well as modern modelled the sounds of the rooms in the studio so you know you can get the tone of my overheads or the tone of my close for mike so the tone of my distant room mikes or a mix of those sounds on then you can apply those to your recordings especially if you're recording in a a tight space that doesn't have a lot of natural ambience and you want to impart, you know, the sound of a studio to that tight, tight space thes reverb impulses airway to do that pretty realistically so um we'll talk for a second just tow just about my background and really like is this class for you? So when these guys asked me to do this course initially and initially they asked me about teach picking one specific topic and teaching a course on that whether that's you know, a drum sound or guitar sounds airbase sounds or something like that but I opted not to do that I I think of recording us more of a holistic approach you know there's as as recording engineers were tasked with balancing a lot of minutia, but the end goal of that is to to further the song and teo teo really learn what what our clients want and and to give it to them and that's that's done through balancing a lot of mnuchin so this this course is going to cover all that minuti but it's also going to cover a lot of the broad brush stuff of you being a psychologist and a confidante to two vans and then I'm recording as well as, you know, helping to manage the business it's it's everything so it's kind of a holistic approach to this so the people that I'm kind of targeting in this class is, you know, people similar to me or maybe people with similar goals to me but a little bit less experienced on I think I'm gonna try toe put stuff in here for the you know, the novice through expert recording engineer, as well as just just musicians who are have felt confused by the recording process or or felt as though, you know, I know, and one of the reasons why I got into recording is that, you know, I felt like the songs that I wrote with my babies and that they're sort of getting taken away from me in the studio because I didn't understand the process and couldn't communicate well with the recording engineer, so even if you're not a recording engineer and you're just a musician, you want to understand the recording process a little better so that you can mohr effectively communicate with a person recording, you think I'm gonna try to put a lot of that type of information? This course is, well, um, so for those of you who don't know me well, as russian, finn said, I'm been playing guitar in a band called converge for adults live here, yeah, that's me, so I've been playing guitar in a band called converge since nineteen, ninety one, and we play some pretty aggressive, chaotic kind of music is definitely not for everyone, so if you don't like my band, I'm I'm not upset with you, I probably wouldn't like my band either if I wasn't in it, and then so for the first the first five years or so of the band, I didn't really know much about recording and I started I felt lost in recording studios a lot of time so you know, I started um started recording myself you know, I saved up enough money to buy a nate track at a small mixing console and started recording in my parents garage in nineteen ninety six and but chose the name god city because my favorite bands of the time was called soul side they had a song called god's city in the first layer of the song was this is god's city and I thought that wouldn't sound really cool on an answering machine that was like my ultimate business. My ultimate business goal at the time was that maybe someday my studio would be big enough to have its own answering machine and that would sound cool on answer machine message, so I'm stuck with that now I'm currently in my my fourth studio, which is in salem, massachusetts, that a small commercial brick building I live on live on the second floor have my studio on the first floor and I've been there for about eleven years now yeah, so that's little background on me and on the type of bands that I recorder usually sort of somewhat similar to my band like aggressive underground, independent type type music and typically bands who what excites there's a lot of different subjects honors of underground aggressive music and we all sort of I think that our little sub genre is the best and that's fine in my little sub genre I think that people I tend to like organic riel sounding recordings and I think the dynamics and little flaws and stuff like that are all acceptable and sometimes even prefered where some other some other genres you might want a more pristine recording mostly what I'm doing is is sort of capturing and enhancing and furthering the feeling of watching you know, some wild, aggressive heavy band at a live show maybe maybe even like a basement show or small clubs and I'm not usually going for that that perfect stadium rock type of sound so that's the kind of stuff that I do if you guys are doing similar stuff, maybe we'll get a lot out of this but even if you aren't, I hope that that I can present these ideas and concepts in a way that you'll still get something out of him and apply it to whatever music you're working on the way that I learned recording wass um mostly just through ah experimentation and in the internet back in the back when I had a day job got to waste my time on the internet a lot and there's a a newsgroup called wreck dot audio dot pro, which was full of you know, the audio professionals just on their kind of gabbing and sharing, sharing knowledge and back in the form of days of the internet they signal to noise ratio on those message boards was aa lot better than it is today but I think that there's still a lot of great information to be had out there like reading you know, pro sound web in the tape up or your slots in the electrical audio board and stuff and you know, I still I still do that I read those things I learn techniques that other people are doing and then try to apply that to my own recordings and see what I can get out of them and you know, make make them my own and that's what I encourage everybody here to do is take any information that you might get out of this course and um you know, try toe try out some of the ideas and maybe they work for you and maybe they don't and if they do great if not great, you know, I'm just like anybody else and just to do and what I know and, you know, take everything I say with a grain of salt and anything I say it's a rule isn't really a rule it's just a it's just an idea and, you know, apply it or don't apply it so um oh, yeah myself so as you see the videos you want toe equate a face with a name that's the dudes they're good friends and that's why they're all holding hands um so um our goal here is about is about music and a lot of lot of recording instruction is about the technical minutia you know, which might use on a guitar which might to use on a snare around blah, blah blah you know? And I'm gonna do all that stuff I'm going to get super technical about what I like to do in the studio and why I do it, but I just want to make sure that any of the technical things you're doing are to further your artistic als so dictionary dot com describes music as art of sound in time that express his ideas and emotions and significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony and color. So uh in layman terms, I I'd sort of done that down to being my definition is that music is just sound arrange designed to produce an emotional response thiss nothing in this definition says that it has to be to a click track or you have to trigger the drums or you have to not trigger drums or you have tto you know you have to be in stereo or you have to use a marshal or whatever you know, like we use all this very technical minutia but that is to further a very subjective, amorphous goal, which is which is music, so there, really there really is no right or wrong thing to do when engineering this really on ly trying to make the best decisions to support your ultimate goal, which is teo to make great music that you're proud of and that everybody working on the project is proud of. All right, so what do we have next year? Tools? We talked a lot about tools, but to me, the concept of tools does not just apply to equipment. It applies to technique, the plastic, everything you have at your disposal to make a record. So and when those things start with the players and the songs, so, you know, as a recording engineer, each member of the band is is one of your tools to make a record. I mean, you're not making, they're not making your record, you're making their record, but they're still a tool that you used to, you know, to get the best tone. So the player and their instruments that's where the tone starts and then further into the into the rooms, the the tone of your room very much effects, the tone of the record and that's a tool to you can say, and I'm gonna put this person in my ice, a booth I'm gonna put this person in live from I'm going to record them in my bedroom, in my pool or whatever, you know, and we're gonna put them on this side of the room with them on that side of the room. That's, that's, that's a tool. Um, and then the you know, the gear, obviously your microphones, your mike bringing your converters, all that stuff for tools. So what you want to do is, um, you just want to you want to learn those tools, learned what you have at your disposal between physical things and your own techniques, and then use those to make the best decisions recording, I think is sort of roughly analogous to life, you know, each each day in life you're you're presented with a certain set of circumstances, and you make decisions, and then you're forced to live with the consequences and the mohr that you delay making decisions in your life, the harder is to actually arrive at a results that you end up with this sort of infinite set of of variables, and then you're a certain point, you become paralyzed by all these variables, and you're not able to push forward, and the same is true with recording, I mean, in recording, you need teo you need to make a decision that move on you know you say like, hey, you know I'm going to use that mike on the snare drum and then I'm going to live with the consequences and then maybe it's ultimately not the greatest choice to accurately capture that snare drum but then you know you work around that and make that part of the character of the record and then you know that's your snare sounds and then you're judging your guitar and your based on your vocal tone around around the snare sound and you just you move, move ahead with your life and move ahead with your record um not sweating the decisions of the past I guess the difference between making records and life is that you get to make more than one record so you can use what you've learned tio not make the same mistakes kind of neat if you could like at eighty years old if you could go back and be like hey want to want to do that differently and that differently so I'm going to talk about the voice a little bit over the course of this of course and the voice is not always a human voice you know, but there's always a voice in a song so uh what you want to do in recording is to always be aware of what the voice of the song is at that particular moment in time and make sure that all the engineering that you're doing and all the coaching and what not that you're doing is too support what the voices so maybe it's like you know, some killer guitar riff or a drum fill or it is theatrical voice or it's a guitar solo or something there should always be a focal point to a song at any given time and, you know, make make sure you're aware of what that focal point is and it's it's some people might call it the hook but it's the thing that the listener is going to most identify with the song and given moment time so make sure that you're following what the voices at any given moment of time and what you do in your in your recording and mixing supports that okay um just going to talk a little bit about how this course is going to proceed so on day one the the first top but we'll talk about it is going to be the least technical of the entire course, but I urge you not to skip it it's it's about interacting with clients and you know, as I stated earlier, I think a lot of recording engineers get really bogged down in the technical minutia of making records on dh sort of forget that they're being entrusted with a person's maybe and that they need to interact with their clients with the sort of respect that they would want to be interacted with if they were entrusting their baby in someone else's hands so I won't talk about that and I think it's the other thing is that a lot of us recording engineers tend to be very right brained people and maybe then to be you know, we're no cellar dwellers that don't know how to talk to people, so you know, I'm not gonna say that the technical stuff comes easy for me because it doesn't, but I think I've had to work a little bit harder on how to interact with other human beings that I have on how to set up a mic stand so I do want to spend some time on that and then we're going to get into segment two, which will be second segment morning, which is going to be probably the most technical of the day drum set up stuff and also talk a little bit about the science of sound before I set up my first mike and then after lunch we talk about drum tracking for a little while just how to coax the best performances out of a drummer and help helping them identify what will push the song forward and then the final segment today we're gonna talk about guitar setup and guitar tracking so that's going to be everything from how to it's probably set up a guitar intimating it you're tuning in, selecting the right guitar, slipping right strain gauges and just trust rodel that kind of stuff through dialing guitar amps or maybe a combination of guitar amps, miking them and then coaxing the guitars through through their performances. Um, so tomorrow we're going to finish finish up the setup in tracking stuff with bass and vocals? I'm devoting a little bit last time to that stuff than the guitar and drums stuff, just because bass shares a lot of the same technical thoughts as guitar does and vocal is, you know, it's, one of the simpler things to engineer, at least at a introductory level. And then we've got three segments tomorrow on mixing and spend a lot of time on drums, both in thie premix work, I'd you to set up drums, and we'll talk about compression effects, but we're also talk a lot about some specialty tom editing as well a sum phase alignment of drums and going to get into that convolution reverb stuff starting then. So the impulses that I made in my studio that I mentioned earlier going to be using some of those in the pre mix part of the drums, and then we'll talk about the other instruments as well, and then also from final next treatment stuff, we'll spend quite a time on stereo, bus processing and why, I feel, is, though that's, important. And. And then how that mix and master stuff her into related, and also some sort of coaching of what to expect about mastering how to choose a good mastering engineer, and how to help your clients understand what master really is and what they can expect from mastering what can and can't be done in the mastering process.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

GodCity Salem Impulses

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

I've been engineering out of my home studio for the past 7 years. I recently graduated from college for studio production and recording bands has been my main source of income for the past 5 years or so. Honestly, this course was incredible and completely worth the $100. Kurt Ballou truly understands the art and he really got me excited to be a recording engineer. I already knew a lot of the techniques and details he went over, but he presented his ideas so intelligently that I was happy to sit through the topics that focused on beginners. I'm not a huge metal or hardcore fan, but Kurt has amazing taste in the way he produces these bands. It's hard to listen to some of the releases today that have the life sucked out of their music with full-on drum replacement and crazy amounts of autotune. It was just refreshing to listen to an engineer who totally knows what makes rock music exciting. This class is worth checking out even just to watch a successful modern engineer show you the basics of his craft.

Fariz Junaini

This was a great course to pick apart the brain of The Kurt Ballou, but I felt some of the topics could be presented a little better and went more in-depth in like the framework of the mixing process. I fell like if you don't have an understanding of basic audio engineering you would be pretty lost but thank god I knew enough to get me through. But nonetheless, Kurt shared some pretty interesting techniques like the crossover method. Love this guy! Hope to see more of him!

a Creativelive Student

This course has been the most comprehensive I have watched concerning the art of audio manipulation. The points made in terms of phase relationships, mic technique, and polarity are valuable insight into getting good sound. My personal favorite was the way he edits toms. All the content is good stuff and well worth your money. Icing on the cake in the included IR samples. I purchased the course for $79. I love you Kurt!

Student Work