Al Schmitt On The Record

One of my presents last christmas was a very lovely book. Now it’s not uncommon to get a book for christmas, especially when you’re a heavy reader like I am. But this book here is something very special. It’s a quasi-biography of sound engineering legend Al Schmitt. However, it’s not only a biography in the classical sense. Apart from the fact that I simply love stories about audio engineering on their own right, the book contains a lot more than that.

Stories are ranging from the all-time Al Schmitt classic of having to record the Mercer Ellington band (Duke Ellington’s son), with Duke in the room too completely on his own, when Al was just starting out at Apex Recording Studio to all the crazy things that happened during sessions with Jefferson Airplane to doing session with Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney and finally Bob Dylan and Diana Krall. All these stories provide a nice insight into how recording sessions worked (and changed) basically troughout the whole era of recording, i.e. from the 1940s until today. Great read.

On the other hand, there’s a lot of information on what gear Al Schmitt specifically uses and even more importantly how he uses it. One of the most important things for him is choosing and correctly placing microphones when recording. Even so much, that no EQ is used at all when Mr. Schmitt is mixing songs he recorded himself. That’s something he elaborates on a lot troughout the whole book. In an appendix even session details of selected session including mic choice and placement within the recording room are provided. That’s something very special for me. Apart from that, specific microphones and their area of use, i.e. instruments they are mostly used on and how, are discussed. Extremely informative.

To round the book of there’s a section written by people who worked with Al Schmitt throughout his career. Most importantly Steve Genewick, Al’s long time assistant and a respected engineer in his own right. Steve talks about what he learned while assisting Al for the last twenty years. At one point he mentions that it took him a long time to even hear what Al is doing with his tiny automation moves. A proof of the experience and probably “golden ears” this man must have.

So if you’re interested in recording and mixing this book definitely is a must have for you. You won’t regret reading it and you’d probably finish it within two to three days just like I did.

See you soon,
Markus

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