The Burbank Central Library recently hosted a “How to Record a Song” course for locals looking to create original music using materials available at the library.
The two-day class took place on Tuesday, August 9, and Thursday, August 11, and was led by Grammy-winning recording engineer, producer and artist, Be Hussey. Hussey previously conducted the same class in March, informing participants on how to make songs in the Spark! Lab and sound booth that the library offers to visitors. Digital audio workstations such as Avid Pro Tools, Apple Logic Pro, and Ableton Live are featured on computers in the lab and utilized for this function.
The participants were taught about the fundamentals of recording, editing and mixing music through both lectures and a demonstration with guest musician Erik Ehlert, who sang in the booth during day one of the course. In his presentations, Hussey explained subjects such as setting up a studio, using the appropriate tools for recording, and mixing recorded tracks through methods like panning and equalization.
As described by the Burbank Public Library website, the Spark! Lab combines “computers, software and other technology used in the media industry to create music, movies, animation, video games and more.” The lab was first brought into this location in January 2020, and the sound booth, which can record music, podcasts, and more, was implemented in 2022. Since these useful features were recently added to the library, news of their accessibility has just begun to spread to local artists.
“You can do a lot of creative damage here,” Hussey said. “I think the word is just getting out that it’s available.”
Many visitors to the class were beginners looking to Hussey for guidance while he shared the best of his musical expertise. He currently performs as half of the post-punk duo, TANGIENTS, and has his own recording studio called CATWATER. As a performer of over 30 years who has been an audio engineer since the late ‘90s, Hussey has witnessed the landscape of music changed dramatically in recent history. The focus of his instruction is on simplifying the techniques of newcomers who may have already been exposed to wide-ranging information about creating songs from various online sources.
“It’s the Wild West, really,” Hussey said of the music industry today. “People don’t necessarily know what they’re doing. And so a lot of my mixing is a fix-it situation. … ‘Let’s back up. Let’s do this right. Forget what you read on the internet. Don’t pile on all the plug-ins and try to get fancy.’ … I think part of my class here is just, ‘Keep it simple. Don’t get in the way.’”
Spark! Digital Media Lab Librarian Jim Cody has seen the lab benefit many Burbank creatives, including musicians recording tracks, voiceover actors building demo reels, Burbank Art Association members using the space for 3D printing, and artists crafting other independent projects.
“One person who I have talked to works in animation and comes in to work on his own comic book, drawing with one of our Wacom tablets,” Cody said. “Another person creates music for animation and other video projects professionally. He comes into the Spark! Lab to work on 3D printing.”
The library previously had an in-person video production program that was put on hold when the library was closed from 2020 to 2021 due to the pandemic. Zoom-only classes educating the public on audio software programs Audacity and 3D printing were conducted in the meantime. Since the library’s reopening in late summer 2021, additional seminars have been introduced. These include the Introduction to Adobe Premiere and Introduction to Adobe Photoshop classes taught by video/photography expert Chris O’Keefe. Furthermore, Teen AV Club lesson plans have been held in the Spark! Lab to teach adolescents the ins and outs of Photoshop, 3D printing, and GarageBand.
Both days of the How to Record a Song class swiftly filled up after posting on the library’s site. Cody says the workshop will continue to be offered if this enthusiastic community feedback persists.
“It depends on the response,” Cody said. “As long as we’re getting a lot of interest in these programs, we keep running them.”
In addition to this musical tutorial, Hussey also carried out a How to Record a Podcast, Voiceover, or Narration class in May 2022. Thus far in his role as an educator at the library, some of Hussey’s favorite memories have been witnessing attendees connect with the tools and information that can be applied to their personal artistic aspirations.
“[I] try to demystify the process,” Hussey said of teaching how to create a song. “Last time, there were a lot of oohs and aahs, like, ‘Whoa,’ and light bulbs going off. Which is a great moment when people go, ‘Oh, that’s what it is.’”
To learn more about the programs taking place at the Burbank Public Libraries, visit their events page here.
To learn more about Be Hussey, visit his site here.