The Roots of Our Voice.
It may seem a stretch that the lead male performer in what was then the country’s most spectacular stage show could go on to build one of the most respected “biggest little production facilities” in the Northern Nevada/Northern California region.
But it’s not a stretch really.
In fact, Michael Eardley’s professional musical and performing career has endowed Tanglewood with two creative elements that find their way into every radio spot, music CD and video production that leaves the facility. Michael’s training and his ability to pass his expertise along to his staff means you get an uncanny ability to communicate in an actor’s voice when directing voice talent. You get a musician’s refined ear when laying down a track for your record. And you are the beneficiary of Michael’s years spent on stage when it comes to producing a visual, evocative video piece. Michael’s Tanglewood ownership, in combination with his history as a performing artist, has evolved a broad view and wider participation in the recording industry as a whole, as evidenced by his election to the Board of Governors for the San Francisco Chapter of The Recording Academy (the GRAMMYs) for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS).
The company’s technical component complements Tanglewood’s artistic acumen. With the finest equipment in the business, we can establish a direct link to any studio in the world – New York, LA, Chicago, London, Johannesburg – and it sounds as close as the next room.
Global talent, state-of-the-art tools, and more than two decades of experience, finding your voice has never been more rewarding. Or enjoyable.
Commercial Production FAQ
Q. How do you select your voice talent?
A. Before adding a voice to our roster, we listen intently to their demo material. We’re looking for more than an interesting voice. We want to hear evidence that they understand the nuance and subtext of a script. We also are looking for a diverse interpretive skill – the ability to take their read in a variety of directions.
Q. How frequently is your talent pool updated?
A. We receive new demos from talent every week. We’re careful to only add talents to our roster who have clearly demonstrated their special abilities. We are also looking for talents who bring new, fresh colors into the mix.
Q. Can I contact the voice talent directly?
A. When it comes time for your session we welcome your input and direction. You’ll have direct communication with your talent, either in the studio or by phone.
Q. What if I want Tanglewood to produce, but have my own voice talent?
A. If you have a talent that you’d like to bring into the studio or who is available via ISDN connection, we’re happy to produce your spot with your talent. Remember that there are additional charges for ISDN connection if you’re not using Tanglewood talent, though.
Q. Does Tanglewood’s talent utilize the latest sound capturing and transmission hardware? Does ISDN affect sound/video quality?
A. Our digital recording equipment is capable of recording at today’s highest sampling rates. ISDN codecs use a variety of modern compression algorithms to achieve compatible connections with remote locations and CD quality audio in real time.
Q. I am not a musician but have a general idea for a custom music bed or score – how can I best communicate my direction to Tanglewood’s composer?
A. If you can make even a modest recording of the melody and rhythm that you have in mind that can be a great guide for us. Otherwise, samples of other pieces of music with the feel you’re seeking will provide a point of departure for us.
Q. I’m unsure which voice talent is best suited for my spot. Can you help?
A. We are always glad to help in the casting process. You provide the best lead for us with your script itself. Copy has a way of suggesting certain voices. Additional directives from you about the nature of the read you’re looking for (dry, deadpan, sarcastic, playful, etc.) will help us to guide you to several talents who could be right for your spot.
Q. Are the voice samples on the Tanglewood website talent actual spots or are they mock-ups?
A. Many of the samples you hear within the talent demos on our website are selections from actual spots that talents have voiced. In some cases, though, a talent may be looking for a particular example of a style or color to show you. We always suggest that talents only include material in their demos that they can readily deliver when asked.
Q. How do various markets affect talent and music rates?
A. The number of “ears listening” is the determining factor. Your production will have a certain size audience. The rate you pay for talent and music is based upon the size of that audience.
Q. What is the most effective way to produce a session if I am not at the studio?
A. We successfully produce spots all the time with only our producer/engineer involved. However, it’s very easy for us to patch you into your session by phone. From the comfort of your office you can sit in on the session and direct if you like.
Q. How can my off-site client participate in a session?
A. Just as we can connect you to your session by phone, we can easily conference your client into a session as well. Bear in mind that telephones are not full-fidelity. We recommend listening to the final production on speakers. If you have speakers attached to your computer, it will be easy to listen to your final spot right at your desk once we post the spot on your private page on our website.
Q. How can my client and I review a recorded audio or video session?
A. We create a special page on our website just for you to preview and download your materials. Once you know the URL for your private page, you can listen to or view any of the files we post there. Once you’ve given final approval, you can direct anyone on your team to that location for downloading the material.
Q. How is the finished product delivered?
A. We can deliver your production in virtually any format you request. High-resolution MP3 has become the format of choice for most of our radio productions because of its compact size and robust audio. For video, reference files can be posted on the website, but full resolution video is still quite large in size. We can FTP or post a large file but remember that the larger the file the longer it will take to upload it (at studio rate).
Q. Are you available to record or shoot out-of-market projects?
A. Yes, we do recording and camera work remotely. Travel time and expenses are in addition to normal production rates.
Q. Can you create a semi-custom music/effects beds by enhancing cuts from your existing music/SFX library with customized musical or effects elements?
A. Often, a production is greatly enhanced by placing a single musical effect or sound effect at a precise moment within your spot. We carry a huge selection of musical instrument samples and sound effects for just that purpose.
Q. What is pricing for custom scores and effects?
A. Hmm… custom means just that – a creation tailor-made for you. We’ll discuss what you have in mind and give it some definition. We usually like to take custom work in stages. We’ll develop a sketch in the initial exploration stage for a minimum fee. Then, after we’ve given your concept some form, we have a much better model from which to craft your final piece.
Q. How long should I expect to wait before I can get into the studio and produce my project?
A. Of course, the busier we are the harder this is to answer. But we love to jump to the rescue when we can. (We’ve been known to get spots out the same day on occasion.) You should expect, however, that we’ll need to schedule your talent and find available studio time. We can usually contact talent and schedule your studio time within a few days of your call.
Q. How much time is typically required for a :60 radio spot?
A. This, of course, depends upon the complexity of your spot. However, a single-voice “straight read” with music is usually fully produced in a one-hour session.
Q. What is the general rule of thumb for the budgeting a video project?
A. Short format video can vary greatly depending upon the complexity of your final piece. Being well organized with script, storyboard and graphic elements will definitely maximize your effectiveness in the editing room.
As a rule of thumb, for long-format video, you should expect your production to run a thousand dollars per finished minute or more. All the elements to be considered for your production – script development, storyboarding, site scouting, permitting, talent, music, graphic design, editing – these are all factors which will affect your final budget.
Q. What are the most frequent issues agency producers overlook when planning their audio or video session?
A. n our estimation, a great producer is one who HASN’T overlooked the planning of their project. Now, we don’t expect that every producer have intimate knowledge of every aspect of the production process, but knowing the process does help. In general, the important issues to cover in planning your project are: script, timing, overall form and structure.
Q. What do you require from new clients?
A. New clients can book production time as easily as picking up the phone. If we have no previous experience with a client, a credit card will hold your session time for you. We also take great care to make sure we’ve done everything we can to get you prepared for your session by trying to get a general idea of what your session will entail in advance of your session. If you wish, we’ll make suggestions for how you might prepare for your session in advance.
Q. Do you offer sound sweetening/final mixing to completed video projects?
A. Prior to adding video production to our offerings, sound for picture was something many clients came to us for. It’s still common for a rough-cut or final version of a video to come to us for a soundtrack, which brings it to yet another level of impact. It’s amazing how even the most modest video LOOKS better with a custom soundtrack built with just the right sound effects, music and voice over.
Q. Do you have reliable/trusted sources for actors, dancers, musicians, make up, etc?
A. Because we’ve been doing this for a while, we’ve built up a database of trusted talent in many areas. And the advantage of being in the middle of all this activity is that when a new individual is brought into our experience who demonstrates a skill level that would be helpful later, we add their contact information to our database. We’ve built a nice network of writers, musicians, actors, dancers, and other creatives. If your project is going to need those kinds of reinforcements, simply ask us to suggest someone for you.
Q. I am pitching a potential new business prospect – can Tanglewood help?
A. You’ll find that Tanglewood’s attitude about potential new business is that if we can help secure that business we’ve earned the business, too. In general, we look at our relationship with our clients as a partnership – the more successful you are, the better we’ve done our job.
Q. I am pitching a new idea I’m to my client – can Tanglewood help me communicate the concept?
A. We regularly have discussions with clients who run their idea by us. As part of your creative team, we enjoy tossing around ideas in advance of a project because it very often builds the chemistry. Sometimes a simple suggestion from us can evolve into a whole new slant on your project.
Music Production FAQ
Q. When choosing a recording studio what should we look for?
A. In a word, comfort. Making music is such a personal creative endeavor you want to make sure that you are in an environment that promotes your creativity.
Q. What should a studio “feel” like?
A. Whatever studio you are considering, you should take the time to visit the studio, walk into the space that you’ll be making your music and get a sense for how it’s going to feel to create in that space.
Ask to hear some samples of music recorded at the studio. What you hear should please you. If it doesn’t, ask yourself if that’s going to translate into your recording.
Get a sense for what it will be like working with the engineer. You want an engineer who will encourage your best work. If you sense an attitude that will challenge your creative process then you probably want to keep looking. You want to feel a partnership in the creation of your music. Capturing your best recording should be just as much a priority for the engineer as it is for you.
Make sure you’ll be hearing a mix in your headphones means it’s easier for you to play your part, too. At Tanglewood we provide each player with his or her own personal mixing station so you can customize it to your preferences. Less drums, more bass, more vocal… you decide what will allow you to play your best.
There are many technical considerations in a studio. You want to make sure that the technology is not going to stand between you and your music. Nothing is worse than being inspired to play your best track and then having to wait while the engineer figures out what is going wrong in the control room.
Q. What’s the purpose of our record?
A. Your recorded product should be as unique as you are. But there are a couple of questions you should ask up front. No matter what your product, a fundamental question is, “Who is my target audience?” Who are you playing to? Is this recording’s purpose to attract the attention of entertainment directors who might hire you to perform live at their property? Or are you looking to secure a record deal? Those are two very different targets. So the material you choose to record should be very focused on the priorities and interests of your target.
Q. How much time will we need?
A. Setting up for a guitar/vocal obviously takes much less time than for a band featuring an eight-piece drum set, bass, two guitars, keyboards, lead singer and three backup vocalists. But the thing to remember is that pre-production is key to making your time in the studio is as efficient as it can be. Having a good game plan will ensure that you can move quickly toward your end goal. We’ll meet with you in advance to map out the structure of your sessions. Answering some pertinent questions in advance can save you hours of wasted time.
Q. How do we know when we’re ready to record?
A. Recording is a wonderful learning process. It can teach you so much about your music and your playing. Because playing in a live situation is such a fluid process, a musical moment passes in time and is soon replaced by the next. In the recording process you have the benefit of capturing that moment and instantly revisiting it. Sometimes that is a glorious experience, sometimes not. As artists we continue to grow from the process of creating. The recording process gives you the chance to put your performance under the microscope and examine it in fine detail. Whether you’re ready to record your first national release or your first demo, the experience will undoubtedly propel your music making to a whole new level.
Q. What is the recording process?
A. Preparing to record should include some important homework. A song list, lyric sheets (for your producer/engineer), instrument breakdown for each song, and a guide to tracking should be formulated in the pre-production process. Of course, rehearsal is the place you find agreement on the details for the elements in your recording.
The day of your first session you will already have a good idea of how things will progress. Plan to arrive in advance of your session so you’re not waiting for someone to get started. If one of your players (probably the drummer) requires more set-up time, have them scheduled to arrive in advance of the other players.
Expect more time than you think for set-up. Players will need to play alone for the engineer to get their sound dialed in. While that is taking place, the process will go much faster if there’s not a lot of distraction with extraneous conversation or other instruments playing.
Once set-up is done, your engineer will probably ask you to play a short rehearsal just to make sure that the levels you’ve given him in set-up are indeed what you will be reproducing in performance. (Performers are famous for giving 110% in performance, thus blowing the roof off of the levels set during set-up.)
By now, (thanks for your patience) everyone should be ready to cut that first take. With everyone indicating that they are “ready to roll” your engineer will give you a “standby” (that means get ready to play) and “rolling” indicates that you are now recording. When you finish the take it’s important that you let every instrument “ring out”. It’s often overlooked that when you hit that final chord the note continues to ring. You want to make sure that no one steps on that ring out and that you successfully capture the decay of that note until it has evaporated completely.
Q. What is the overdub process?
A. With the advent of multi-track recording came the ability to record additional tracks over already recorded tracks. Very often we start with the rhythm section (the instruments that carry the basic structure of the piece – the piano, bass, drums or the equivalent). After those tracks are in place we can continue to overdubs. Subsequent tracks are added to the rhythm section to fill out the piece. Some artists have a set method for their overdub process. Usually the order is chosen to best support the final lead track (vocal or solo instrument).
Q. What is the mixing process?
A. After all your tracks are recorded, then comes time to decide how each track will appear in the final mix. Louder, softer, tonal characteristics, effects, how a part will build throughout the song… all these (and more) are decisions to be made for each and every track. The more tracks you have the longer you should expect a mixdown to take. And remember, with todays mixing capabilities, even the finest details can be addressed, from minimizing a single breath to tuning up a phrase that didn’t quite make it to pitch.
Q. Do we need a “producer”?
A. A producer is usually someone with a great deal of musical experience who can act as an additional set of ears for your music. It’s important to choose an individual who brings a new, fresh perspective to your material, someone who can assist in fine-tuning your musical product. Think of a producer like a great coach who gets the most out of your performance in the studio. One of the benefits of working at Tanglewood is that our engineers are also musically trained and have a great deal of experience producing a variety of music. Without having to hire an independent producer you’re getting the benefit of a producer on each and every session. (Of course, depending upon the services rendered, a producer may be paid a separate fee either by the song or by the album project.)
Q. How should we prepare for the studio?
A. Come prepared to capture your best performance. That means rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. The studio is not a place to discover what you want to record. It’s simply too expensive. You can do that by exploring your material fully on your own, making decisions about the structure of your music well in advance of your recording date.
A special note: try to rehearse your material at half, or better yet, quarter volume. You may discover that some things have been hiding underneath the cloak of all that volume. The very best music derives its integrity from precision. Many times volume simply hides a whole lot of imperfections.
Make sure your equipment is in great shape. New strings, fresh cables, effects units with no buzzes or grounding problems. You don’t want to spoil a great track with unwanted sounds.
You may want to bring snacks or drinks for breaks. You want to keep fresh and your energy up. Tanglewood has a great break room just outside the studio for catching a quick pick-me-upper. The refrigerator and soda machine are always available to you, as are the number of nearby take out and delivery joints.
Q. What are some do’s and don’t in the studio?
A. Come prepared to have a great time. That doesn’t mean it’s a party, though. Making music is something you thoroughly enjoy. But it’s a craft of discipline. Be prepared to focus all your energies on the music and let your inspiration lead the way.
Remember that the studio is an artificial environment. The equipment that we need to capture your best performance is all around you. Microphones, headphones, gobos, pop filters, rooms with double doors… all these are necessary to accomplish the task of recording your best stuff. However they do create a different environment that you’ll need to get used to.
Don’t touch studio equipment that has not been put in your hands. In general, keep your hands on your instrument and leave the studio equipment to the engineer. Your engineer will let you know what you can handle – that will usually include your headphones and your personal mixing station. Remember that cables are attached to everything. Watch where you step. You certainly don’t want to try to walk across the room while wearing a set of headphones. You’re attached by the cable and walking away while still wearing the “cans” could damage you and, more importantly, our expensive set of headphones!
Be prepared to be patient with the set-up process. Every microphone needs to be placed in order to get the very best sound. Depending upon the needs of your recording, that can mean dozens of mics, each with its own placement requirements. After they’re placed, your engineer will need to make the adjustments in the control room to “dial in” the sound for every mic. The set-up takes patience but once it’s done you can proceed to making music, confident that what you’re capturing is a clean, pure track for every part.
Q. What’s the difference between a “demo” and a “record”?
A. Demonstration recordings are meant to show your talent in a positive light but are not always expected to have the final polish expected of a master commercial release. However, in today’s world, high standards are simply expected even with demo recordings. There is really no reason to turn out a recording for which you have to make an apology. Today’s recording technology can capture pristine tracks even within the most modest of facilities. The key to capturing a great performance is really found in the skills of your engineer.
When pushing past the demo stage, a recording usually will have much more thought and preparation and many times includes more elaborate production elements (i.e. more tracks, more players, more involved arranging). A commercial release for national distribution almost always is sent to a mastering house for treatment of its final sonic characteristics.
Q. What mastering services does Tanglewood provide?
A. Mastering may include many different treatments to your final mixes. If you’re expecting your record to be competitive with other national releases, you absolutely want to invest in the mastering process. It simply provides sonic treatments and corrections that are more refined and exact to create the very best sound for your track.
If you are putting out your first record and are “testing the waters” of your commercial viability, the mix master that is created for you at Tanglewood should be fine. We’ve turned out many CD’s for our clients that have gone directly to duplication and been quite successful. If your album should happen to get the attention of a big record label, they’re going to have the whole album mastered anyhow. The mix master that you receive from Tanglewood will be optimized so that your tracks are all speaking at proper levels and equalization within your collection of material. Tracks will be timed so that you have a smooth transition between songs and even fade-throughs from track to track when it’s appropriate. Your disc can also be formatted with ISRC and UPC codes to make you fully ready for the duplication process.
Q. Once we have our recording done, how do we get it packaged?
A. Before you can send your CD out for duplication, you’re going to want to consider its packaging. An effective album design can be the key to buyers picking up your CD in the first place. You certainly don’t want a generic looking cover to stand between your buyers and your music. So put great care in the message your package sends and what it tells your public about you.
At Tanglewood we’ve been designing album print work for our customers for years. Because your design is going to be handled by professional printers, it’s important that whoever is doing your design be familiar with the requirements of modern printing. The pre-press preparation for your printed material can be quite complicated.
Q. We’ve been quoted a cheaper rate at another studio. Why is your rate higher?
A. Experience and facility. Many of our clients have actually chosen to record at other facilities first. When comparing their subsequent experience to Tanglewood they frequently comment that they were able to get twice as much done in less time at Tanglewood. We pride ourselves in being fast and efficient because we know the music-making process.
We have also taken great care to provide you with the most comfortable setting for your music-making process. Our live room is beautiful and spacious with three isolation chambers and great sight lines. We provide a personal headphone mix for each player so that you hear exactly what you need to hear to play your best.
Q. My friend has a home studio and great software. Why shouldn’t we just record there?
A. The technology available to the personal recordist today is nothing short of phenomenal. Then again, it is, even in the simplest versions, quite complex. Depending upon the expertise of the engineer running the equipment you should be able to turn out a very adequate recording.
So you may want to consider some of the following factors:
Will you have adequate space for all your players to play together? After all, music is at its best when players are feeding off of each other’s energy and musical inspiration.
Will the acoustic space you’re playing in allow your instruments to sound their best? Every room has a sonic coloration. The size, shape and materials in the room all have an effect on your sound.
How is my recording environment going to be isolated from extraneous outside noise?
It’s really frustrating to have just laid down the most exciting performance you’ve ever done and then learn that your track is sharing that performance with the trash truck that just drove by.
How long will I be waiting while my engineer figures out how to set up my next take?
When you are inspired to play, even a small detour can get in the way of your musical genius unfolding. You want to make sure that the technical process is not standing in your way and that when you’re ready to lay down a great take, so is your engineer.
Q. Should we record covers?
A. If your target is expecting to hear you deliver a convincing rendition of popular material, by all means show them what you can do. However, if your audience is supposed to be impressed with your unique ability to create music, then doing someone else’s music as originally recorded is probably a lesson in futility. If you want to cover someone else’s tune and still impress your audience, then bring something brand new to the material. When this new recording is heard your audience should say, “Wow, that’s a whole new way of looking at that song.”
Q. I’ve got some karaoke tracks. Can I record my vocals to them?
A. Young singers have a resource today that can be a major boost in helping them create demos and develop their talent. There are wonderful, fully orchestrated back-up tracks available that can provide the underpinnings for a demo recording and keep your studio budget at a small fraction of what it would be to produce that material from scratch.
However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. Unless you are looking to be hired as an impersonator, copying another artist’s performance is really not going to get you anywhere. To do a song just like Bruce Springsteen or Faith Hill did it originally might lead your listener to draw that comparison, in which case, you’re almost always going to come up second. After all, the reason the song became popular in the first place was due to the original artist’s rendition. So when working with back-up tracks you should make sure to bring something truly unique to tonal quality, phrasing, and interpretation.
Q. I’m thinking seriously of recording at Tanglewood but still have some reservations…
A. Tanglewood is a friendly place. We love it when people just have an interest in our facilities and ask for a tour. We usually end up talking together for quite some time about the prospects of a possible recording project. We’ll check our calendars for a time that fits into your schedule and ours so we can get to know you and show you around our studios.