News From The Woods - December, 1990


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published December, 1990

"Why Do I Write This Column?"

As this first year of the '90's decade comes to an end the idea came to me to devote this issue to this question: Why do I write this column? Well, it may have occurred to some readers that having Cedar Crest Studio's name in print somewhere each issue would be good for business. And although that is true, it still isn't the reason I do this. I'd like to share a few of those reasons as we reflect on the next nine years.

The main reason I do this column each issue is because I ENJOY IT! The personal gratification I receive for being fortunate enough to share my career experiences with others in our business is worth the few hours each month it takes to produce it. I see my contributions as a technical reference report more than a literary art form. I address my column to the working musician/engineer who would like to keep up with it all. If you can apply something read here to your own situation, then this column has served its purpose.

Recounting a recording session not only gives insight to recording technique, but it helps "spread the word" about musicians and bands in our state. I can remember being a working musician in Arkansas in the '60's and, believe me, nobody knew what anybody else was doing! The music "scene" was totally unorganized. We didn't have a Nightflying distributed all over the state to keep us all informed. We didn't have counter-culture college or public radio stations that would support local artists and play their music. Of course that's due partly to the lack of technology in the '60's. There were no cheap multi-track recorders, sequencers, samplers, or digital effects available to the local working stiff. We were lucky if we could find a set of Black Diamond strings in Baxter County. Recording a record was always the dream, but out of the question because you just didn't go into a studio unless you already were a SOMEBODY.

I read articles in today's trades about how the small studio owner is going down the tubes because of cheaper technology. Maybe so, but I don't find that to be the case with us. Being a musician and a songwriter myself, I know how hard it is to record your own material even if you have all the gear. There's only so much you can do by yourself. Of all the tracks cut here, the material that suffers the most during the recording process is always mine, because I can't effectively run the board and play drums at the same time. So here we are SO proud of our recorded drum sound here at Cedar Crest that we advertise it and my own drum tracks suffer because I can't be in two places at the same time.

My philosophy is that, while sequencers and small personal recorders are very helpful in getting your ideas down without spending a lot of money to buy studio time, there is still a lot to be said for going into the studio, refining the arrangements, and committing those ideas to tape on a professional level. And why do so many musicians think that they can go into just any well-equipped studio and get what they want out of it? The studio staff is more critical than the kind of gear, otherwise you can spend most of your budget trying to figure out their setup instead of being creative. Finding a good studio with the right attitude is as hard as trusting the right auto mechanic with your car. IF, while reading an account of one of our sessions, a reader finds an answer to why his or her last recording effort didn't turn out right, then writing this column was worth it.

I have had musicians call me up at the studio and ask technical questions with reference to one of my columns. Do you think they would have known to call if they hadn't read about it in Nightflying? I don't think so. I'm glad they felt that they could call me and "pump" me for information and I am glad to have helped. Just don't call COLLECT!

This past year has been very good to us. We have met lots of new friends, and we've produced some great sessions. Susan and I have even been lucky enough to be asked to perform live with some of our friends. We have finished and "put to bed" three different projects that each took three years to record (Whiplash Gumbo, Hamilton/Lambert, and Jess McEntire). We have produced and logged over 30 songs for our DIME-A-DOZEN music publishing company.

I can feel us all getting closer and closer to what we seek. The trick is to just don't quit doin' what you're doin' - have faith in yourselves and be good to your neighbor. No one said it would be easy, so let's re-dedicate ourselves and see what we can accomplish in the next year. GOOD LUCK!

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