It was around 5 p.m. on a Saturday at Red Feather Studios, and a recording session was about to start. But before the music could play, there was a lot that needed to be done.
“First, we have to figure out what instruments are being recorded and place microphones accordingly,” said Mikah Feldman-Stein ’16, head audio engineer at Red Feather Studios. “Then we have to run cables to our computer where we will capture the audio. Before this can happen, we have to set up a project with an appropriate number of tracks in our software. At this point, we bring the musicians into the live room and start recording.”
The studio, which occupies three rooms beneath the University Organizing Center, is completely student-run; students fill all the roles, including audio engineer and studio manager, both of whom must be present for each recording session. The group that runs Red Feather supports the studio’s daily needs, as well as working to achieve its long-term goals. The leadership structure is organized horizontally, with different students supervising the various departments of the studio: internal affairs, external affairs, booking, engineering, managing, and media.
The first room, the live room, is where the musicians play their music; next door is the control room, where the engineer and manager will be working. Clients come in to record all different sorts of projects, and each project requires a different setup. Recording is complex, and getting the best sound is an intricate process that requires a certain set of knowledge.
As head engineer, Feldman-Stein teaches other students how to engineer with enough proficiency to record music that has professional-level sound quality. Feldman-Stein joined Red Feather in its early stages, when the founders—Ismael Coleman ’15, Ron Jacobs ’16, and Derek Sturman ’16—realized they needed more information on how to design a studio room and what kind of equipment to get. Feldman-Stein’s expertise, gained from audio-engineering classes, proved a valuable asset to the team. One simple but elegant retrofit of the studio is the colorful shag carpets that cover the concrete floor, which enhance the sound and the mood.
Feldman-Stein was the first engineer to join the studio, but there are now five student engineers, and he anticipates that another 10 will be fully trained by the end of the semester. It is crucial for these engineers to be trained well to ensure that the recordings are impeccable.
“The cleaner the recording, the cleaner the mix,” Feldman-Stein said.
The band that was recording on Saturday, Feb. 14 was one of many groups that came in that week to record.
“[We have] a lot of rock bands,” said Jacobs, who heads internal affairs. “We get genres ranging from indie to punk to hip-hop, rappers, experimental rap. People come in to make beats, do acoustic sessions.”
Campus band Chef began recording an EP in Red Feather Studios on Saturday, Feb. 14.
“We’re trying to record an EP, six songs on the record: five originals, one cover, but we might add another cover,” said Chef bass player Anthony Dean ’17. “Because there’s 10 of us in the band, we’re going in in different groups. We’re laying down the base track, a foundation for everyone else who will record over that.”
Before Red Feather Studios, there was no campus mechanism for bands to record their music.
“I think it’s a really cool place and it’s really great that we finally have a place like that on campus,” Dean said. “There are so many bands that should record their music, and being able to have students who know what they’re doing with recording is really a good thing to have.”
Though most of the recording sessions are musically oriented, other types of projects have also begun to record at the studio. Jacobs, who stressed that the studio is open to anyone who books a session online, mentioned a film podcast in the works. Other projects include sound mixing for film, specifically film theses. Students have also started to work on sound scoring.
Jacobs, one of the founders of the studio, is glad that it has become a space that students are using every day, but he also hopes to get even more people in to record.
“I want it to be a really inclusive project,” he said.
Red Feather has already formed partnerships with WESU and the Music Department; in the long term, the studio hopes to work with musicians in Middletown.
Though Jacobs has high hopes for the studio’s future, he is also aware that there are issues to overcome. Internally, there is a lot to oversee, such as administration, scheduling, and maintaining the physical space of the studio. Externally, the studio is trying to let more people know what is happening inside its doors. Jacobs also spoke about his desire to pay the students working at the studio, as students who work for Sound Co-op are compensated.
The last room in the studio is B3. It’s a DJ room, but it’s also the room where collaboration happens. Artists can hold meetings or writing sessions, or simply lounge, soak up one another’s artistic vibes, and listen to music.
“That is my favorite part of it,” Jacobs said. “Just coming back and playing songs on the DJ booth, listening to that final master track.”