Recording Tutorial

The Art of Recording a Big Band

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5 Videos | Length: 1hr 3min 54sec
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  • image description 10:44

    Chapter 1: Introduction

    Engineers and producers from around the world gathered for a master class featuring Al Schmitt and Steve Genewick recording and mixing the Chris Walden Big Band over two days at Capital Studios in Hollywood, California.

  • image description 9:04

    Chapter 2: Miking the Instruments

    Al and crew step into the Studio A live room and start setting up mics for the 19 piece big band.

  • image description 14:39

    Chapter 3: Soundcheck

    Al and his team of engineers adjust mics and discuss getting the best sound from each instrument.

  • image description 16:53

    Chapter 4: Setting Levels

    Levels are brought up and fine tuned as everyone gets ready to start recording.

  • image description 12:34

    Chapter 5: Recording a Big Band & the Mix Session

    The band is recorded and the mixing process starts.

Product Overview

Rack Pack Productions Presents in association with the Hal Leonard Corporation

The Art of Recording a Big Band

The Art of Recording a Big Band is an educational and inspirational behind-the-scenes film about studio legend Al Schmitt.


The Art of Recording a Big Band was filmed at the famed Capitol Studios in Hollywood, California, USA, over two days during a recording session by Al Schmitt featuring Chris Walden's GRAMMY® Award-nominated eighteen-piece jazz big band. The film focuses on the legendary Al Schmitt, the most celebrated music engineer, producer, and mixer of all time, and winner of twenty-one GRAMMY® Awards. His most recent GRAMMY® came in 2012 for Paul McCartney's "Kisses on the Bottom."

During his career Al Schmitt has recorded and mixed more than 150 gold and platinum albums. Al Schmitt's credits include Henry Mancini, Sam Cooke, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Sammy Davis, Jr., Natalie Cole, Thelonious Monk, Elvis Presley, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, and many more.

This educational and inspirational documentary includes interviews with Al's longtime partner Steve Genewick as well as Chris Walden, Dave Pensado, Ryan Hewitt, Kenny Wild, Paula Salvatore, and a cameo appearance by engineer and mixer Andrew Scheps. Longtime friend and collaborator Quincy Jones provides a poignant opening statement about the importance of "the person who captures the sound."

Known recording industry professional Shevy Shovlin makes his big-screen directorial debut with this sixty-minute educational documentary film. Released everywhere in 2016.

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The Art of Recording a Big Band is rated 3.8 out of 5 by 42 .
Rated 5.0 out of 5 by from Inspiring Given that Al Schmitt recently passed away, this is a wonderful expression of how he worked. Really enjoyed it. What I think is important to this particular type of recording is having a good sounding acoustic space to record in.
Date published: 2021-05-04
Rated 2.0 out of 5 by from Scratching the surface of the subject matter This video is more of a light documentary for people uninitiated to the trade, celebrating the fact that it's actually possible to record a big band without the use of EQ. There's unfortunately not much to discern of the techniques of these masters, and how they achieve this great feat - except some of namedropping of some microphones. In addition the sound quality of the video itself is quite unimpressive. This comes down to bad choices done in the planing of, and during the recording process, as well as terrible choices done during editing: such as leaving both lavaliers on even though Al and Steve are having completely different conversations in different parts of the studio, resulting in nothing making sense at times.
Date published: 2018-02-27
Rated 5.0 out of 5 by from love those guys It felt like being in La Fabrique (Saint Remi de Provence - France) again where they have regular seminars.
Date published: 2018-01-14
Rated 4.5 out of 5 by from If we all knew this, we'd be better off. I am humbled to have met both Al and Steve and this video series captures exactly who they are and how they work. Like anyone else with a pair of ears, I hold them both in the highest esteem. If you look at the console, all the faders are within a few dB of unity. The art of recording-to-the-mix using microphone choice, placement, and gain through the respective amplifiers that best imbue the desired tone is probably the best challenge an engineer can undertake -and these guys do it EVERY session. Amazing! To see it in action stands as a firm reminder that it can and SHOULD be done. The ONLY reasons I am knocking off 1/2 star has nothing to do with Al and Steve's work, but Groove 3 for not providing stems to the end user. Al spoke to A/Bing some of the AEA KU4s against some original RCA 10001s and we, as end viewers, did not get the benefit of that comparison. I'm sure those who were in the studio that day were privy to that insight. Additionally, I'm sure Al spoke to his approach to blending between the room mics and the spot mics as well as artificial reverbs that we did not get to see. These are of course small potatoes compared to the overall quality of this series. It really does not get better than this.
Date published: 2017-08-17
Rated 5.0 out of 5 by from Amazing Session! I don't work with this type of music but it was fantastic to be able to see and hear how it's done by the master.
Date published: 2017-06-23
Rated 2.0 out of 5 by from Lacking in specifics This could be condensed down to the following: record the best musicians in the best space with the best microphones, and you too can record like Al Schmitt! Nice to capture Al, but this video was really lacking in specifics. Also, it completely glossed over the mixing aspect. It goes to the mixing segment and they say, put up the faders and you're done. I'm glad it was only an hour, so I didn't waste more time.
Date published: 2017-05-26
Rated 5.0 out of 5 by from The Art of Recording a Big Band Outstanding.
Date published: 2017-05-07
Rated 4.0 out of 5 by from Good This is a good documentary, but it could be better with subtitles.
Date published: 2017-05-07
Rated 5.0 out of 5 by from Very interesting video. Some great perspectives on recording a big band. I would have likes a bit more of the technical things like IDing the various mics and other equipment. The band was fantastic.
Date published: 2017-04-08
Rated 4.0 out of 5 by from No Vocals !! it would have been nice to see the vocalists perform and have some insight into Al's techniques etc on the vocal recordings ,in the room,in a booth,eq,compression ,etc. bit disappointed !
Date published: 2016-12-18
Rated 4.0 out of 5 by from Well made film Bought this video last week and although it is well made, fantastic musicians, a team of the best guys in the business who certainly get the job done, I found it skimmed over most of the items I am interested in - an explanation of what they were doing with the knobs, sliders and what they were all seeing on the screens and where were the vocals. I know I'm inexperienced and that this film was aimed at a more knowledgeable audience, but I still enjoyed it.
Date published: 2016-12-16
Rated 3.0 out of 5 by from Great watch, missed some key points due to editin Ah great look into how a great big band recording is made. Some questions are inaudible and some of the shots aren't choose not very well as you miss what Al is explaining.
Date published: 2016-11-29
Rated 3.0 out of 5 by from A Bit Disappointing Really Al Schmitt is a hero to a lot of us aspiring engineers. His work is second to none. However this video didn't really show us the kind of detail I would have wanted. There was lots of gushing over Al himself, which is totally understandable as he's a fantastic person and engineer. We know he doesn't use EQ, and we know he values mics and mic placement above all, and in particular the omni pattern. We also know the recording sounded great, especially the drums ;-). I would have liked to see more details about the mix, particularly his fader moves, what and how much he's sending to the various reverbs and just details and more details, and finally I would have like the chance to listen to the mix top to bottom, just get aborbed in it, but its playback was cut short. Throughout the video Al was listening and moving faders ever so slightly. Via automation they could have played back the mix and given us a view of the faders moving to get a sense of this subtlety. As a result I just don't feel this is video I'll want to watch more than once. I was hoping it would be a lasting reference and learning aid even if I don't record big bands. I'll still recommend it because for someone not familiar with Al and his work it would still have some value, especially when it comes to studio etiquette and behavior. Al is all class.
Date published: 2016-11-29
Rated 2.0 out of 5 by from Disappointing One of the most disappointing aspects of this production was the audio! For a film about the art of recording a big band to only contain MONO audio seems a very poor choice. Not only mono, but appeared to be the audio from the lav mics worn by Al and Steve. There absolutely should have been a stereo audio mix feed from the board that the viewer should have been hearing. The general lack of technical information was a let down too. The section of the movie on Mixing was pointless as it was so short and discussed nothing involving the mix process.
Date published: 2016-11-14
Rated 1.0 out of 5 by from Only worthwhile for the curious I was greatly looking forward to this but sadly it was a huge let down. Not only is it very short but there's almost nothing of value in it. Mostly some talking about general recording philosophy we've all heard before if this isn't your first production video. No production techniques are discussed or explained. If you have some degree of experience you can skip this. Why did they even make this? And I say this as someone who greatly admires Al Schmitt and loves big band music.
Date published: 2016-11-11
Rated 5.0 out of 5 by from Just like being there What a great idea to get this into a learning experience, I haven't watched everything yet but I will be watching it over and over again, super.
Date published: 2016-11-03
Rated 4.0 out of 5 by from Interesting, but.... What were the clicker things the engineer was sing on the mics and what was that remote he was pointing through the window into the session room. Also, there were load of hefty mic stands in there, who makes them, them green ones? Anyone???
Date published: 2016-11-02
Rated 3.0 out of 5 by from Too many questions left unanswered! Al is a true genius, but I feel that the interviewer is not asking the right questions. I learn what michrophones he uses and where he puts them, but not why and how he came to that decision. Therefor the video is teaching me what Al is doing, but not how to do it like Al.
Date published: 2016-11-01
Rated 5.0 out of 5 by from Al Schmitt is a national treasure! Al is truly an icon in the world of audio recording. Artist centric, amazing ears, extrememly natural approach to record making, a gentleman, a sweet human being are all phrases that come to mind when watching this amazing behind the scenes glimpse into the recording world of Al Schmitt at Capitol Studios. Watch this!!!
Date published: 2016-10-15
Rated 5.0 out of 5 by from The art of simplicity Well, great lesson ! Al Schmitt is still a young man sharing his tons of experience with kindness and simplicity as no one else. The way he acts is a great lesson for every (trainee) engineer. Presence of some of the most current famous mixers and producters, in the mixroom, learning from him is remarkable and a lovely tribute.
Date published: 2016-10-09
Rated 4.0 out of 5 by from Inspirational tutorial Inspiriational tutorial with quotes that will last
Date published: 2016-10-07
Rated 4.0 out of 5 by from Nice, but mono??? Really nice look at how Al and Steve work together. Enjoyed it very much, but the audio is MONO. Seems very strange given that this is a video about recording and mixing. Wonder why this decision was made, or is it a mistake? The only stereo is the little synth background behind Dave Pensado talking towards the end.
Date published: 2016-09-25
Rated 1.0 out of 5 by from What a waste This documentary was a big disappointment for me. I was hoping to learn about mic placement, Panning of the sources in the sound field, about Mic choices etc. But nothing of this got really touched. badly filmed, with nobody who asked the questions. Just a big waste of money, very sad.
Date published: 2016-09-21
Rated 5.0 out of 5 by from Amazing I loved this inspiring documentary. I wish there were more like this about the culture and the craft of making records the way records should be made. ...And capturing the brilliance of the Masters.
Date published: 2016-09-20
Rated 1.0 out of 5 by from Overpriced for short entertainment Was a bit shocked when I downloaded and saw length was only 1 hour. Nice to see legend Schmitt in action and a few nice session insights but, as others have remarked, for any engineer or producer there is not enough detail on Al's mic'ing or mixing techniques. Reminds me more of other light entertainments on the studio genre. For what it is, not bad, but overpriced and misleading to describe the product as 'educational'.
Date published: 2016-09-18
Rated 2.0 out of 5 by from Really ropey video production This had the opportunity to be one of the most interesting "making of" type documentaries, but it's a bit of a flop... Often times there are (separate!) conversations in the live and control rooms happening concurrently, such that you can't follow either. Regularly questions are asked, but we only hear the answer with no idea as to what the question is. The actual filming is pretty poor, I'm not sure the video team have ever heard of grading. Pretty poor.
Date published: 2016-09-14
Rated 1.0 out of 5 by from Very, very disappointed it is a simple documentary or maybe a long trailer. interesting if free, but not.
Date published: 2016-09-04
Rated 2.0 out of 5 by from Interesting, but Lacking in Usable Content I purchased "The Art of Recording a Big Band" because as a musician, producer, director, and recording engineer, I've been involved specifically recording big bands for over 20 years at this point. Al Schmitt is without question one of the great engineers of our time, and I was excited to see him in action, and learn specific techniques he utilizes. While there was some brief valuable info about his microphone choices, the entire film (which is only 1 hour 3 minutes long) is mostly a documentary of him chatting with musicians and his own history. While this itself is interesting, I was extremely disappointed to never learn any details about how, for example, he sets up the cue mix for the musicians - which is a critically important element of any recording session, why he chose one mic and preamp or another, how he utilizes compressors and/or other processing "live to tape", and also disappointingly, basically NOTHING about how he approached mixing the final recording - which is also what makes him great. For the cost, I truly expected at least a 2 hour documentary (or more) that would have addressed these subjects in some detail. I have all the respect in the world for Mr. Schmitt, and desperately wish this would have given us MORE about his specific techniques.
Date published: 2016-09-04
Rated 1.0 out of 5 by from Poor Its doc for Tv not for professionals. You wont learn anything. Very Disapointed
Date published: 2016-08-26
Rated 5.0 out of 5 by from The Art of Recording a Big Band Truly! An Educational and Inspirational Documentary! I was a student at the Institute of Audio Research in NYC back in the day, we were recording and editing tape on Scully's, even using a recording lathe for cutting LPs (!). The all important concept of knowing your mic's and experimenting with placement to get the right balance is for me an emotional flashback to those days and a vindication of the craft embodied by this great award winning legend. Well done Mr. Schmitt, well done Groove3!
Date published: 2016-08-17
Rated 5.0 out of 5 by from So Inspiring The end credits say it all, Al Schmitt is the most decorated engineer and mixer of all time. And he does it by NOT getting in the way of the group he's recording. Incredible.
Date published: 2016-08-17
Rated 2.0 out of 5 by from A bit disappointing I got several E-mails from Groove3 to write a review so here it is: First off, I have tremendous respect for Mr. Al Schmidt who is simply one of the greats. The fact that he is still going strong while in his late 80s is simply amazing, the last Dylan album is a great example. However, the movie never gets past the 'teaser' phase. I understand that it's about a 'mindset' and about a vibe - this certainly comes across - but this is a movie that will apply to recordists and engineers mostly and therefore it really should include more specific techniques. As somebody else said already, the 'Mixing' portion was about 30 seconds long - not good. BTW, i bought the download version so I don't know if something is actually missing - maybe the DVD includes Bonus content? To be more specific, I really would have loved to see more in depth footage of an actual session, say the mic setup and balancing. And it would have been nice to learn more about the mixing process.
Date published: 2016-08-17
Rated 4.0 out of 5 by from I want to thank you all, this is amazing This series of videos gave me the opportunity to have a virtual meeting with one of the engineers I admire most: Al Schmitt. I was hoping to get some more information about the technical part of it, like some more details about the reverb settings and a real mixing session video. But every single word that Al says is deep and opens my mind. I already incorporate some of his wisdom into my work. It looks more like a spot for some future product or a sort of testament of his work. But I like it and I hope to have more of that.
Date published: 2016-08-16
Rated 4.0 out of 5 by from Techniques that work This is a must-watch video. The Guru Al among other gurus explains what they do to get the best music out from great gears. Meticulous mic placement and using great mics and saving hours that many would use in-the-box plugins to achieve.
Date published: 2016-08-12
Rated 1.0 out of 5 by from Just bad This is nothing more than a few guys hanging out and "doin nothin". I would be ashamed of myself if i was to actually ask money for this.
Date published: 2016-08-11
Rated 5.0 out of 5 by from Really enjoyed it Great inside look in the studio at Capitol with Al Schmitt and friends.
Date published: 2016-08-09
Rated 4.0 out of 5 by from A Master At Work This is well worth the watch. Don't expect to learn anything earth shattering. It's just basic good engineering practices. I've enjoyed his work for so long it's great to see Al do what he does best.
Date published: 2016-08-08
Rated 5.0 out of 5 by from Watch a master at work This is about as close as it gets to actually being there in the studio with a legend. Being able to watch Al and Steve work is a true pleasure. Watching this should be on the syllabus of every audio school in the world.
Date published: 2016-08-06
Rated 2.0 out of 5 by from Not quite what I expected ...... I feel that the title of the video was a little misleading - could have been titled "The approach to recording a big band" - or any recording session for that matter as it has a lot more to do with the engineers' relationship with the producer and performers rather than how to record a big band. The message I take home from this video - be a nice guy like Al Schmitt! This is a lesson in life and not only recording ..... a "wedding video" style production of a high end recording session
Date published: 2016-08-03
Rated 1.0 out of 5 by from Art of Recording Big Band Look after your equipment? I already knew that!. A lot of general comments and standing around talking
Date published: 2016-08-02
Rated 5.0 out of 5 by from Inspirational The video is really good for engineers who want to work in the studio. It's not always about the technical aspect of recording music. It's also the vibe of the process and the ability to listen. It's about the engineers being personal with the musician and working with them to create a masterpiece. It's humbling to watch how Al Schmitt work with the musicians.
Date published: 2016-08-02
Rated 5.0 out of 5 by from The very interesting point of view of a master! Watching this movie you will not learn how to perfectly mic a bass, or a drum or a brass section... will learn how a master approach music, musicians, sounds, feelings... ...the most important lesson here is that you have to set the right atmosphere in the studio to get the best tones! Great value, thank you.
Date published: 2016-08-01
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