I interviewed Anastasia Fisher about what goes into recording, what questions bands should be asking, and more. She's currently a student at The Omega Studios' School of Applied Recording Arts And Sciences as well as lead audio engineer/producer at NOVA Music in Manassas. To record with Anastasia call 703-335-5001. $30-50 per hour for recording.
What’s your musical background?
I started off in fourth grade playing the violin (I wasn't very good at it). Then, in 5th grade the band recruited me. I was promised a trip to six flags, they lied. I joined the percussion section. I didn't like carrying around the bell/snare kit so I ended up switching over to clarinet in 6th grade and I continued that all the way through 12th grade.I was in marching band- I was a band geek. I also taught myself how to play guitar when I was about 12 (to be rebellious, obviously) and took a few years of lessons. I also took piano for a year or two when I was 16 to help out with theory and production. Over the years I’ve just used my knowledge of how instruments function to learn other various instruments. So now I play clarinet, guitar, bass, ukulele, and some mandolin. I want to learn more, though.
On the side I like to use production software to produce electronic based music. I like synthesizers and MIDI sequencers a lot. It’s different from physical instruments, but the same overall concept applies.
Where did you study audio engineering?
I took a music computer tech class in high school and that was my introduction into the side of engineering a little bit. It definitely got me interested, so I got a job at Guitar Center to be around the products. I guess I kind of taught myself at first and got some advice from my coworkers because I wasn't 100% sure that was the career I wanted at the time. After working at Guitar Center for about a year and half I realized I was seriously interested in getting a job at a studio and recording bands full time, so I went to a great school in Rockville called Omega. Omega itself is a multi-million dollar studio that teaches engineering, production and so much more. I actually got to mix songs in class and use a NEVE, SSL board and analog tape. It was a good match for me.
What questions should bands be asking when talking to a potential engineer?
Anything they’re interested or curious about, whether it be the process of recording or the equipment used. A good engineer should also be asking the band a lot of questions too. I would ask the usual questions:
1) What are your qualifications?
2) Are you certified in any DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations)?
3) What microphones are you planning to use?
4) If you’re using analog or hardware, what board do you have and which preamps are you using
5) Most importantly, what does your previous work sound like? Listen to it, and see if their style matches yours. It’s all about being comfortable.
What information do you want before a band gets into the studio?
A track list is nice. I like to know what instruments they’re bringing and the genre style or the sound they’re aiming to achieve.
On average, how long does it take for a band to finish recording a song?
This is very subjective. Sometimes it can take two hours sometimes it can take days. It depends on how many tracks they have, how many over dubs they want to perform, and how well prepared they are. On average I would say a simple 5-piece band takes about 4 -6 hours to record one song after you include set up and breakdown.
How long does mixing and mastering take?
Again this is subjective. Depends on the track count and how complicated the song is. If the band hasn't practiced enough and their timing is off the engineer needs to spend time editing the timing of the track.
If the bands drummer has a weak sounding bass drum or snare the engineer may need to go in and replace each separate snare/kick hit with a sample. That’s even before they touch the volume fader or add in any effects. I would say on average a good mix can take anywhere between 4-8 hours (sometimes even more).
Mastering is different though; I am not a mastering engineer so I can’t give you a concrete answer.
Explain the difference between live and studio engineering.
Basically, live engineering is running a show; making sure everything is audible to the audience, and making sure everything is running smoothly. The band needs to be able to hear themselves through the monitors and the audience needs to be able to hear the band. A live sound engineer may not necessarily be concerned if everything is played perfectly because it’s a live show, its imperfect. Their primary concern is just to keep the show going.
In the studio, your concern is to create an album that people want to listen to over and over again. You want it to sound good. That means over-dubbing if you have to, layering tracks, mixing, etc. You have a lot of time in the studio to carefully craft the sound. You don’t have that sort of time in a live venue.
If you had unlimited time and resources, what set-up would you have?
ANALOG: I would probably have a NEVE or SSL board with at least 48 channels for multi tracking. I would love to own a decent Studer 2 inch tape machine. I would like a pair of LA4s and a pair of 1176s for compression. For effects I like Eventide, TC Electronic, and the old Effectron. I would maybe get an outboard preamp for different microphone processing.
MICS: Nuemann U87s, all of the KM series, Sennheisers, Shures, AKG 414, Audio Technicas, and Sterling Audio.
DAWS: Pro Tools, Reason, and Logic. That’s all I need.
PLUG INS: I like Izotope plug ins, Universal Audio plug ins, Native plug ins, and Waves are nice too (they just use a fair amount of processing power).
MIDI CONTROLLERS: I like Novation and Akai products.
COMPUTER: Quad Core Mac Pro with an i7 processor, 32 gigs of RAM, a 128 gig SSD, and multiple terabyte HDDs.
What’s your favorite musician stereotype?
It would probably be the metal heads. I love the metal heads though, they’re some of the nicest people. Also, my favorite music joke is probably this one: “Who’s always hanging out with musicians? … Drummers..” Classic.