Interview: Gina Fant-Saez Builds the Global Studio
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So far, we’ve talked about what’s positive about technology’s effect on creativity. What’s the single worst thing about it?

It has put music in the hands of the masses that think using [Apple] GarageBand automatically makes them a songwriter, that throwing a couple of loops together and never learning about chord structure and music theory is all it takes to write a great song.

And the result is all the watered-down music we hear on the radio.

There’s a lot of great stuff on the radio these days and there’s a lot of crap. I do think that technology has negatively affected the craft of songwriting because it’s so simple to cut and paste a song together these days. It’s also negatively affected the talent required to make an album. If someone can play in time for two bars, that’s about all that’s required for much of today’s music. There should be a balance between talent and technology, and I guess that’s what I’m hoping eSession will do.

But regarding radio, that’s a whole other thing. Clear Channel [which owns hundreds of American radio stations] is limiting so much of the great music that’s out there even more now. You used to need only talent to get on the radio, but now you simply need money. I’m hoping that satellite radio and perhaps internet radio will eventually change that.

But won’t eSession be open to all the new “GarageBanders” willing to pay for a good player? What if that guy or girl in their garage happens to write some heartfelt lyrics and stumbles upon an amazing chord progression?

Absolutely! The process will be that the artist or songwriter, regardless of their experience, will send an audition to the player. So, the choice about whether to play on a track is up to each individual player. As long as the player likes the song, they can choose to play on anyone’s demo or record. The musicians will name their own prices; so one guy might say $150 for a guitar track and another, $250. There will also be a fee for the artist/producer/songwriter to submit an audition of their song to the players. That may end up around $20, to get a song to a Shaun Pelton or a Tony Levin. If those guys like it, then that will make that GarageBander’s good song sound even better.

There’s nothing like a great musician to make a song even greater. Like I said, the site is actually geared more towards the music professionals, but I will happily help the beginner as well. I hope that eSession will end up becoming an “eBay for musicians.”

Wisdom the dog One of the joys of eSession collaboration and home recording: Fant-Saez with Wisdom, one of her seven Labs.

Gina Fant-Saez: Music Examples

From a project called Broadband, which was written, produced, and recorded over the internet with musicians from Seal, David Bowie, Aimee Mann, and Shawn Colvin’s bands:

A collaboration with Oliver Adolph for the upcoming Rumacea album:

From Rumacea’s first album, produced and written by Gina Fant-Saez, co-written with Pamela Sue Mann:

Written and produced by Hanno DiRosa; co-written with Marco Gherardi, Enrico Friedlevski, and Andrea Ciacchini; lyrics and melody by Gina Fant-Saez via Rocket Network:

Gina’s QuickTip #1: Name Your Tracks First

“I can not emphasize this enough,” Gina Fant-Saez says. “Once you’ve finished recording a track in Pro Tools, the audio file is automatically named on your hard drive. If you don’t name your tracks before you record, you will have a folder filled with generically named audio files. That can be the ultimate nightmare if you ever have to rebuild that session or open those files in another program. How can you tell that ‘Audio 1-01’ is the kick drum and ‘Audio 2-17’ is an acoustic guitar?”

Fant-Saez adds that the entire edit screen in your Pro Tools session will be covered in regions—onscreen representations of those files—named ’Audio.’ She notes that it is so much easier to work with a song if you can see the individual track and song parts named according to the individual parts you’re working with. Here’s how she suggests overcoming this common error:

“If you forget to name a track before you record, simply highlight the audio region and hit Command-Shift-R [Control-Shift-R on Windows] to rename the region on the screen. If the region has not been edited, it will rename the actual file on the hard drive. If the region has been edited, it simply changes the name on the screen.”

Fant-Saez uses the Command-Shift-R function frequently to help her organize things onscreen. “I rename regions all the time as I work. For example, I will take an imported drum loop and rename it ’VsLoop125,’ meaning this is a loop I use in the verse, and it is 125 beats per minute. Now, when I’m looking at the song on the edit screen, I can tell which waveforms belong to which instruments and what parts and regions of the song they play in. Being as organized as possible in your naming protocol while creating a song saves you hours in the long run.”

Gina’s QuickTip #2: Loop-Recording Vocals in Pro Tools

Loop recording is a great feature in Pro Tools that is rarely used. It is found under the Options menu. You simply have to enable it, set an in-point and an out-point, then grab the mic and hit Record.

“Some people misunderstand the term ’loop recording’ and think it only applies to drum loops or pieces of audio that loop within a song,” says Fant-Saez. “But loop recording is simply telling Pro Tools to record over and over in the exact same place; in other words, to record in a loop. For example, sometimes it’s easier for a singer to sing a song in sections, as opposed to singing from beginning to end. I find that singers frequently lose their voices when recording a song as a whole. Often, the choruses are higher in pitch and require more effort and emotion, and by the end of the fifth take, their voice is strained.”

Fant-Saez suggests setting the track’s recording in-point two bars before the first verse starts and setting the out-point one bar after the verse ends. Turn on loop recording, and let the vocalist sing the verse over and over until there is a “keeper” take worth saving for the song. On the Pro Tools session screen, it will appear that each take is being recorded over and erased, but that’s not the case.

“Simply highlight the last region recorded, choose the I-beam tool, and hold down the Command key [Control key in Windows] over the region. You will see a list of takes in numerical order. Simply choose one from the list. Sometimes while a singer is singing, I take notes and write down which verses were sung best so that afterwards I don’t have to waste time listening to 15 takes. When the singer is done, I know the first half of take number 8 should be used, for instance, with the second half of take number 6.”

Fant-Saez also points out that pre-roll does not work in loop recording. [Pre-roll refers to making playback start a little bit before the section where you want to record.] “You will only hear pre-roll on the first take; from there, it starts recording at your in-point,” she notes. “So, you have to create your own pre-roll by setting the in-point at a place the vocalist can comfortably work with.”

SIDEBAR: Taking It with You

“I just love being portable. It is so creatively freeing,” says Gina Fant-Saez, who last year produced an all-online recording of the group Broadband. “I’ve got Bluetooth, and everywhere I travel has wireless, so I’m always on the web. For music, I’ve got my laptop, an M-Audio Oxygen keyboard [USB controller for software synths], and Digidesign’s Pro Tools. In fact, I just sold my SSL [mixing console] and replaced it with the new Dangerous Analog Summing System, which to me, is like an SSL in a rack. I feel that large consoles are just not a necessity with today’s technology. In six rack spaces, my Dangerous System does everything my SSL did and more. I also find myself using Logic a great deal these days; it has greatly improved since Apple released it.”

The Ultimate Portable Studio Fant-Saez’s portable rig with prices (click for larger version).

Gina’s 7 Essentials for Portable Recording

  1. Macintosh laptop computer
  2. Digidesign Mbox with Pro Tools LE multitrack software
  3. La Cie 80GB FireWire hard drive
  4. Altec Lansing inMotion speaker system
  5. M-Audio Oxygen8 USB keyboard
  6. Microphone
  7. Headphones

Gina’s 7 Recommended Extras for Portable Recording

  1. Additional computer memory
  2. Software effect and synth plug-ins
  3. Apple iPod
  4. InCase guitar/tour bag
  5. Apple iSight camera
  6. High-speed Internet connection
  7. Microphone stand with pop screen

Randy Alberts is an author, musician, and photographer who lives on Lummi Island, Washington.

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