Flip Flops in the Windy City: Recording @ Hinge Studios

We recently had the opportunity to record at Hinge Studios.  It went very, very well.  I have both audio and video to share, and some cool stories…

I-Hung Hsu, Cooper Rich, Chris Beckstrom, Jon Bennan (photo credit Jeremy Dop)

The Prep

I recorded a piece of music for a conceptual video game as part of my final for our game scoring class.  The game is called Sky Chase; it is an abstract, 1st-person flying game.

"Sky Chase" master score

I wrote a string orchestra piece in the vein of Karl Jenkins.  I designed it to function entirely in the live room, i.e. no prelay.  I knew certain parts were going to be tricky, as it was a fast marcato at 140bpm (beats per minute).  In particular, I had some cool hemiola with 6 against 4 that I wanted to make sure to keep nice and tight:


The Session

I ended up having the penultimate time slot; by the time it was my turn, we were almost out of time.  I had to move things along.  I had orchestrated fully to include the winds and harp, but they were really just an afterthought.  After one pass, Gary and I agreed that they weren’t necessary for the piece.  Since the last time slot didn’t include winds, I dismissed them, leaving just the strings.  My immediate problem was the bass; I had written a fairly tricky part for him to play.  Whenever I could, I doubled with the celli, but this was difficult when they did things like double the soloist:

Tricky bass part

The bass player had such a hard time with this, and I was so short on time, that we never got it the way I wanted.  I had to spend much of my time during the session cueing the bass player– it was an interesting challenge, as I’ve never had to do so much for just one person in a session before.  Below I can be seen attempting to politely signal that the bass player should NOT be playing yet:

"Please stop playing" I'm saying in my mind (photo credit Jeremy Dop)

In the end, Gary and I ended up muting the double bass close-mic, and inserting the bass part from my mockup.  Since the rest of the live recording is so good, you can barely tell.

Then there was the soloist.  The success of Sky Chase lived and died on the ability of my concert master to essentially sight read the solo passages.  While she got to passes at the first solo, I had written a pretty baller counter-line in the last 12 measures.

2 violin solos...

During our last take (we blend the last two takes together to make the orchestra sound bigger), I had her play the counter-line.  But she was reading it cold, and ended up flubbing half-way through.  Desperate, and knowing we’re out of time with still another time slot to go, I turned around and whispered into the talk back mic “Gary, I need to punch in for the last 12 bars, she missed the solo!”  …  “Do it” was all I heard.  And we did!


Our mix was fairly simple: blend the last two takes, mute the live bass, insert the MIDI mockup bass, and add the punched-in last 12 measures.  After 2 hours with Gary, we had an awesome mix.  Check it out!  Lucky for us, Shaina House filmed the entire session.  While it’s fun to have, it’s EXTREMELY useful for future conducting.  We study this like pro-athletes study game footage, analyzing both our physical conducting, as well as our efficiency at using our precious studio time.  Here’s mine!

More to come

I had the pleasure of conducting Phillipe Pierre’s piece as well.  I’ll talk about that in the next post…