Get ready to record at camp! A Q&A with engineer Mark Dann

[Editor’s note: Ed Tree will offer recording sessions at WinterSongs West in 2017. Mark will be there sharing in other great areas: 1. Bass Accompaniment; 2. Basic Guitar Setup; and 3. Basic Chart Writing.]

Got a song you want to record, either as a quick demo towards a bigger future production or as an example of your art to last forever? Want to learn how to do great recordings in your own home on GarageBand? You can do all this at WinterSongs!

Recording engineer Mark Dann, one of SummerSongs’ most popular and long-time teachers, will be at WinterSongs in Cambria, California this year, recording demos for students who sign up for a session and sharing his best GarageBand tips and tricks.

Here’s what Mark had to say about his recording classes:

Q: You help campers record their own demos at WinterSongs and SummerSongs. What can people learn by recording their own demos with you? What’s so great about it?

A: I think it means different things to different people, somewhat influenced by where they are at in their process. For some, it  might be a simple demo of a song that they were in the process of working on at the time, and thus serves as a snapshot of a moment in song creation.  For others, possibly something more profound.  Recording can be like a mirror that you hold your art up to, not just something you do to get your music “out there.”  It’s a journey.  Who knows what the effect will be?  I bring a little bit of that to camp, along with some gear.

Q: You also sometimes offer a home recording bootcamp of sorts with GarageBand tutorials. What are the most important things folks need to do if they want to get a good home recording?

A: Practice! A great recording starts with a great performance. And part of what a home studio affords is a really unique practice environment. I really believe that listening to yourself on recordings is far more effective at getting better than only “practicing.” The feedback you get from that will teach you things that you would never learn otherwise. And all that leads to making great recordings. But in terms of technology, I would suggest coming to my class, where I try to shortcut that answer as best as possible! Gear selection, working with what you already have, how and where to set it up, get it all working for you with the least amount of stress possible, etc.  If you can do social media, you can learn to record yourself, it’s not really that hard. If you have a portable recording system (computer-based or otherwise), bring it to camp! If it’s been baffling you, I’ll help you sort it out. If you are semi-comfortable with it, I’ll take you further. Or maybe you just have questions.

Q: What should campers do to get ready to record, whether they are in a studio or doing stuff at home? What are the most important things they should do to make sure they do the best job possible?

A: If you were going to run a marathon, you would be jogging around the neighborhood for weeks or months beforehand. The best way to prep for a recording project is to sing and play a lot, at home. Play all the songs you plan to record every night. Play them twice if you have time. Pretend you are on tour. After a few weeks of that, you will probably be at the top of your game, and that’s where you want to be if you are preparing for recording, or any performance for that matter. And with the increased comfort level comes increased confidence. There are other aspects of preparing of course, but they won’t mean much if the performance isn’t there.

Q: You’ve been one of the most popular and long-running teachers at SummerSongs and have been to both East and West. What do you think is most powerful about an experience like SummerSongs?

A: It’s an opportunity to put the rest of your life on “pause” and just do music for a week!  Songwriting classes, instrument classes, singing classes, jamming!  And Summersongs is a fantastic community full of like-minded supportive people doing just that.  What could be more fun?

WinterSongs: Cambria, CA, January 26-30, 2017
SummerSongs West: Cambria, CA, June 1-5, 2017
SummerSongs East: Stony Point, NY, July 23-29, 2017

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