The Christmas Spectacular Recording

Last week I had the honor of being invited to a recording at Capitol Records. Disney Tokyo is preparing their Christmas Spectacular show at Disney Seas, and Greg Smith, among other composers had been asked to write the music for the show. Greg invited me so I could see how a live orchestra recording is done, and to introduce me to some people who can help me get live players for my future film scores. The recording was to be broken up into two days. Day one would be percussion and rhythm section instruments, and day two would be strings, brass and woodwinds.

Early monday morning I made the drive up to Hollywood Boulevard to the capitol records building. I was signed in by the security, and it was in the parking lot that I was greeted with my first surprise.

For the two days that I would be there, I had my own parking spot. They sure did a great job of making me feel important. The building itself is such a cool place. 
After getting inside, I had to sign myself in, and I was given a badge as to what my role wold be during the recording. Notice the watermark in the background? After 24 hours, a watermark saying expired will appear so you can’t get back in on a different day!
The recording studios are in the basement. So after a trip down a few long hallways, I found myself in Studio A. The room was beautiful. All of my dream gear was piled everywhere and all the engineers were getting ready for the days recordings. Greg was there, talking to some of the players. He brought me into the recording room, which was incredible. 
Inside the room was everyone who would be involved with the recording. The CEO, musical director and show director of Tokyo Disney were there. Running the show was Dan Savant, who will be the person I speak to whenever I want to use live players for a film. Mike (the man with the hat in the picture) runs the soundboard and positions all the mics, and he’s an absolute genius. Just by listening, he can tell how many inches a mic needs to be moved for a better sound. He was so fast. The ProTools operator was Melissa, and I could not believe how quickly she can start a new session and process recordings. It seemed extra human. Standing in front of the soundboard is Dan Stamper. If it’s music for Disney, it has to go through him. Apart from Greg, some of the other music for the show was being written by Don Harper, who was there, and two other composers who could not attend, so Don would be conducting their pieces. Being in a room full of live players, I knew that it would sound totally different than what I was used to with my digital rig, but I wasn’t prepared for the full sound. It makes all the difference in the world. The emotion the players put in, and the little imperfections are what makes these things sound so good. It was amazing. Here are a few more shots from the day.
Brass are in the foreground. Strings are in the back, separated by a sound wall.
Brass section seen through the recording room window. 
Greg conducting his pieces. 
What can I say about the two days? It was such a great experience and I learned so much. Greg and I spoke on the phone a week after to discuss how the event was for me. He sent me the finished recordings from the session, and it’s amazing to hear the difference. After these raw recordings were processed, they were sent to Disney in Florida where the choirs were waiting. All the vocals were recorded there and the whole thing was mixed there. Hearing a piece of music after being there and seeing it made was very cool. There’s so much more to hear because you’re on the lookout for things you saw or heard during the session.  The next thing Greg wants do is to get me on to one of the big sound stages, either at Warner Brothers or Sony so I can see a film score get recorded to see how it’s different. I don’t think I’ll be complaining about that one. He’s also going to start sending some work my way pretty soon, so I can’t wait for that. Needless to say, these were a couple of days I’ll never forget. I have much more news, but I want to break the posts up, so check back in soon, and there will be more to read….and hear.

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