August 9, 2020

STACY MCCAIN TAKES A MUSICAL INTERLUDE:

This fascinates me, because (a) how does someone so young discover an old Buddy Holly song? and (b) the arrangement is so simple. Besides her ukulele, the only instrumentation is a Takamine guitar and a Suzuki Omnichord, a 1980s-era electronic autoharp. New models sell for about $270, but the instrument is scarcely more sophisticated than many children’s toys you could buy for around $100 nowadays. The audio mix was done with Garageband software, and the video was recorded on her iPhone, edited with VideoLeap software. Even the microphone — a Shure 545S Series 2 Unidyne III — is rather cheap, less than $100 on Amazon.

My friend John Hoge worked as a recording engineer in Nashville back in the day, and can tell you what it would have cost to book studio time in the era of analog tape recording. Circa 1981, when I was chasing the rock-and-roll dream, the cheapest 8-track studio in Atlanta charged $25 an hour, at a time when minimum wage was $3.35 an hour. In other words, you’d have to work an 8-hour day at minimum wage to earn enough for one hour in the studio, and a full week’s wages wouldn’t pay for an eight-hour session. By the late 1980s, you could buy a 4-track cassette recorder for about $450 — about two-days’ pay, at minimum wage — but the audio quality was low (e.g., tape hiss) and it wasn’t until the late 1990s, by which time I’d outgrown my rock-and-roll dream, that home digital recording equipment became something affordable to the masses.

Young people, in addition to their lack of knowledge of classic Buddy Holly tunes, generally have no idea how cheap technology has revolutionized so many things that we now take for granted.

Well, yes. That’s a topic I explored last week at Ed Driscoll.com: ‘Recording in Progress:’ Newly Arrived Documentary Explores the Changing World of the Recording Studio.

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