Audio engineer

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Posted Sun, Apr 10, 2011

Taylor Hahn works in his studio located in Aurora, Colo.

AURORA, Colo. — Taylor Hahn has a busy day ahead of him. He has already assembled the drum kit and is in the painstaking process of properly placing his eight-piece mic kit to record the drum tracks for The Tom Freed Band’s new album. The mics have to be just right. You see, microphones require perfect position to capture the desired tone, resonance, sustain, and decay of the drums. As Hahn manipulates the last of the mics into position, he says “Okay, we are good to go.”
About a year and a half ago a rumor began to spread about Hahn, the guitarist from the now defunct band Unroyal Blood. Word on the street was Hahn was producing quality music recordings for a reasonable price. Local bands began contacting Hahn to hear samples of his work, which eventually led to him recording their new albums. Since then, Hahn has capitalized on a niche market of local bands without much expendable cash who wanted to have quality recordings of their original songs.
One such band was Advent Justice, a Denver-based metal band who were ready to record their first EP.
“We played a few shows with Unroyal Blood and Taylor offered to record us,” said Martin Escoto, lead guitarist for Advent Justice. “We weren’t sure what to think until we heard recordings from him of other bands that we played with. Simply put, he is the best at what he does in Denver, and for the price, the quality can’t be beaten.”
Advent Justice spent $900 to record a three-song radio-quality EP, something that would have cost triple that amount at a big name studio.
Hahn is rabidly chasing his dream of becoming a professional audio engineer and record producer. At 21 years of age, he already has more experience under his belt, more songs recorded, and more albums produced than many other would-be producers. It has been just over a year since Hahn opened his own recording studio, and since then he has assembled an impressive portfolio of work. Hahn has managed to record more than 200 songs and 35 albums in his humble studio, all from local bands in the Denver music scene.

Hahn plays his guitar, showing off a song that he wrote for Unroyal Blood.

Most audio engineers achieve a degree in music or sound production at a university before they can even consider employment at a major recording studio. Even then, real world experience is highly recommended to be taken seriously by a prospective employer. Many audio engineers work full time jobs that have no relation to the music industry, just so they can afford the equipment and that this profession requires.
Producers who are just getting started often find themselves working for free because they are unable to compete with larger studios in terms of audio quality, and at its core that is what the career is all about.
Dedicated audio engineers put their entire being, heart, and soul into the music that they help create and produce. They strive to make the best sounding music that they can and it is that drive that keeps them going. Even so, Hahn’s story is a bit different.
Hahn began recording when he was 19, straight out of highschool, and with no idea of what he wanted to pursue as a career. After purchasing a cheap recording interface from Guitar Center which came bundled with Ableton Live, an amateur recording software, Hahn started to record his own music. With a single mic, Hahn recorded the guitars, drums, vocals, and bass.
He didn’t know the first thing about mic placement, phasing, or equalization, but found that he enjoyed the challenge of getting the best sound that he could with his limited resources. However, Hahn soon realized that he still had much to learn about recording.
Eventually, Hahn’s band, Unroyal Blood, went to record at Spike’d Audio recording studios in Highlands Ranch. During these recording sessions, Hahn began to ask producer Michael Morrissey questions concerning recording methods and technique. Hahn wanted to know how he could improve his own recordings at home.
While Morrissey initially gave him tips on how to improve his home recordings, Hahn later decided to intern for Morrissey so he could learn more about the art of recording. This was not a paid internship however, and Hahn actually had to pay Morrissey $1,000 to take part in the six-month internship.
During the first few weeks of his internship, Hahn simply observed what it was like to record artists who were paying money for a service. Later he began setting up mics and tuning equipment. After a few more weeks performing these duties, Hahn was trusted with minimal recording responsibilities such as click-tracks arrangement and setting recording levels.
Eventually, Hahn started to dabble in the equalization and compression of instrumental tracks until one day he walked into the studio and Morrissey had a surprise waiting.
“During the internship, he (Morrissey) kinda threw me to the wolves,” said Hahn. “He told me to sit down and record.”
Hahn was nervous, but trusted Morrissey’s decision to allow him to perform the full duties of an audio engineer.
For Hahn, the internship was a turning point in his life. He began to understand how to properly operate professional quality equipment, as well as the intricacies of mic placement, equalization, and compression, and he gained his most invaluable asset, real-world experience in the music industry.
“Michael was a mentor to me,” said Hahn.” I still talk to him every day, we are best friends.”
After the internship ended with Spike’d Audio, Hahn began recording out of his home in Aurora. He started Phantom Audio in the basement of his parents’ home. Setting up a studio is not for the faint of heart. Hahn estimates that he has spent between $7,000 and $8,000 on equipment since starting up his studio. For starters, any studio has to be mostly sound-proof to minimize interference from outside sources of noise. Many types of microphones are required as each instrument produces sound at different frequencies and every vocalist’s voice is different.
Additionally, any studio worth its salt has high-quality instruments for bands to use as they see fit during their recording. Add in mixers, pre-amps, computer hardware and recording software, studio monitors, mic stands, and the often overlooked cost of cables, and you will end up with a figure that the vast majority of hobbyists would cringe at. Yet Hahn took the chance and invested in his own career.
Initially Hahn used word of mouth combined with social media networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook to attract bands. When Hahn garnered his first few clients, he agreed to record their albums for a flat fee of $100. Hahn looked to these opportunities to further develop his own sound, his own style. Spending tens of hours on each song, Hahn would have earned more money working for minimum wage at a local fast food chain, but it wasn’t about the money, it was about the progress that he would make to further his career.
After recording local acts such as Ruins of Tomorrow, Advent Justice, and Anchorage, Hahn achieved a new level of success. His recordings were being played on local radio stations such as 106.7 KBPI and 93.3 KTCL. This was a milestone in Hahn’s career, and served to further his pedigree as one of the top independent audio engineer’s in the Denver-metro area. With new clients booking recording sessions every day, and his work receiving air play on some of Denver’s largest alternative and rock radio stations, Hahn has wind in his sails and the ability to go wherever his new found success takes him.
Hahn is humble however, and he realizes that he has been blessed both in ability and opportunity.
“I definitely give credit to God for my friends and my opportunities,” said Hahn, “but it’s something that I just kind of fell into.”

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2 Responses to “Audio engineer”

  1. Leah Says:

    cool subject, dude.

    Reply

  2. Heather M. Smith Says:

    Hey…great pics! The story is cool too…very well fleshed out and lots of good quotes. I really liked the build up of how he learned and what he had to do to get the experience and build his own studio.

    Reply

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