An interview with MIMA Audio Engineer Steven Schaefer
Tell me about your experience with MIMA as an organization.
My experience with MIMA has been good. They have given me lots of opportunities to step up and get experience doing the things I love.
How did you first get involved with the recording studio here on campus?
When I first started in the program, I had a deep appreciation for the fact that the way to go places in the arts industries is to make meaningful connections with people. I spent a lot of time in the MIMA office just meeting people and finding out what they did in the program. That’s where I met Nick Graham and Luke Slagell. They were in the process of updating the studio and installing some new equipment. I already had a very good understanding of recording equipment so I was able to overhear what they were talking about and jump in and introduce myself as someone who already knew what they were doing. I can’t stress enough how having prior knowledge will put you in position to move up in an organization. I taught myself just about everything I know about recording music before I even came to college. With that knowledge and experience under my belt, I was an easy fit for the studio. If you have the ability to teach yourself the basics of something and master them, then people who do that thing for a living will respect that and be willing to teach you more.
You held workshops last semester in the recording studio. Can you tell me more about what happened during those workshops and who was involved in them?
The sessions we do in the studio are designed to give experience to the students running the sessions and learning opportunities for the students observing. We bring in artists to record music, and students can sign up to come in and observe the sessions. We take time as we go to explain what we are doing so that the student observers don’t get lost and can actually learn something. At the end, we have a finished product that the studio staff can put in their portfolio and the studio observers can see and understand why we took each step we did in creating it.
What were your original plans behind the EP? Why did you want to be involved in making it?
The plans were to finish the EP and release it. Many of the previous projects that went through the studio never got to full completion. I wanted to set a precedent of finishing and releasing our projects so that we could later point to something and say, “We did this.” I believe that the studio can be an amazing project for both myself and everyone who comes after me, so I wanted to start us off doing things right.
Did anything change from those original plans? What challenges did you face in the studio?
One of the challenges that we encountered was keeping to our schedule in order to make sure that we did finish the EP. For instance, we had scheduled a day to track drums, but the artist had an internship interview scheduled last minute that day and couldn’t make it. We had a tight schedule to finish the EP during the semester, so we ended up finding a different drummer to play the parts in order to make sure that we got everything done on time.
Can you tell me the step by step process behind making the EP?
If you want the full version, come to our studio sessions!
The first key to getting a good recording is having something good to record. That means finding an artist who has good songs and can play them well.
The second step is to capture that well. That means getting mic placement right, getting the guitar tone you want, making sure your instruments are tuned, making sure the artist is comfortable so they can record good takes, and being able to listen back to the takes and hear what things could be a problem when you get to mixing. The catchphrase that I go by is, “Get it right at the source.”
The last step is mixing and mastering, where you take the tracks you recorded and make them sound good together. It’s a simple process, but you can take it in so many different directions that it gets complicated as you go.
Do you have any further plans with the recording studio, like a future record label?
There are plans in the works for things like that, but right now I’m focused on making the studio be as productive and excellent as I can. I want to bring in good artists and make killer tracks. If we can do that, I’m happy.
Do you see yourself working in a recording studio when you graduate?
Possibly. I have lots of different directions that I could go with my career, but I definitely won’t regret the work that I’m doing in the studio now no matter where I go with it.