Tuesday, October 23, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 33

Santa Maria Sun / School Scene

The following article was posted on January 10th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 45 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 18, Issue 45

Allan Hancock College music professor offers free recording time to local musicians


As music professor Chris Diaz pushed and turned the seemingly endless array of buttons and nobs on the mixing console in Allan Hancock College’s recently remodeled recording studio, the music pumping out of the studio’s speakers changed dramatically.

“A lot of the cool stuff comes from breaking the rules,” Diaz said, citing the distortion used in classic rock music as an example, a major mistake turned into a popular sound. “So I really try to inspire an environment of experimentation and creativity, and I think that helps take down a lot of the fear.”

Allan Hancock College music professor Chris Diaz (pictured) said the school’s newly remodeled recording studio will be open for use by local musicians for all of spring semester 2018. The studio’s equipment includes some unusual “toys” that Diaz said he thinks will draw in professional musicians, including an AKG C12 condenser microphone that’s worth nearly $10,000.

The “fear” being that of his students in Hancock’s new music class, Sound Production Techniques, which Diaz developed and started teaching fall semester 2017. The class, according to Diaz, explores the use of digital audio software to record music and video projects, as well as the use of digital signal processors for mixing and mastering recordings.

The sheer volume of equipment, most of which is new to Hancock, can seem daunting to beginning students.

But during fall semester, Diaz said his students were thoroughly trained to use the studio’s complex equipment, which was purchased largely through the Patty Boyd fund, millions of dollars left to the music program by a late piano teacher. Diaz said he was able to buy nearly $60,000 of the recording industry’s premier equipment, including a solid state Logic XL desktop mixing console, a Lexicon 224 digital reverberator and effects processor, Audio Technica, condenser microphones, monitors, and keyboards.

That’s not including much of the equipment that was already in the studio. All together, Diaz said the studio is worth nearly $120,000 in physical hardware.

Although Diaz said many of his students have already started mixing digitally with easily accessible home software, his class allows kids to use the actual physical hardware that computers can only emulate.

“I think music and media and art have become so digitized and computer dependent, but in this program I’m really trying to get them back to the principles of physical sound and analog gear that is actually creating stuff with electrical signals. And I think that helps them visualize things,” Diaz said. “We still have a digital computer setup but we have a lot of analog gear that really gives it something different than what you could get at home with a computer and plugins.”

Agkash Lakshmanan, a 17-year-old senior at Ernest Righetti High School who took the first semester of Sound Production Techniques through Hancock’s College Now! program, said his recording and mixing skills have improved exponentially since the beginning of class.

Lakshmanan said he became interested in music while volunteering to help with sound design at his church, First Christian Church, where he mixes the band and choir live. It’s the same concept used in a recording studio, he said, except there is only one chance to get everything right.

“I had a trainer in my church who taught me a few things but I never understood what he was saying. He used all these terms I couldn’t understand,” Lakshmanan said. “But once I came here, Chris kind of simplified stuff.”

During the upcoming spring semester, Diaz said students will have more creative freedom. His hope is that various local musicians of all genres—rock, mariachi, pop, punk, classical, choral, country, electric, hip-hop, etc.—will sign up to record in the studio. Through this technique, students will have the opportunity to gain hands-on studio experience, and in return, musicians will get free demo albums.

But Diaz, who worked in several professional and independent recording studios in Texas and New York before entering the world of academia five years ago, said only one musician has signed on to record.

Diaz said he has 14 weeks of open studio time. The recording process will take place during normal class time on Tuesdays from 12:45 to 3:15 p.m. in room E-12 at Hancock’s Santa Maria campus. The recording space is large enough for an entire symphony, and students can mix 30 tracks simultaneously. Musicians are also welcome to join students during the editing process, which will take place at the same time during class on Thursdays.

The first Sound Production Techniques class of spring semester starts on Jan. 23. To schedule a studio session, musicians can email Diaz at christop.diaz4@hancockcollege.edu.

Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash wrote this week’s School Scene. Send information to the Sun via mail, fax, or email at mail@santamariasun.com.

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