Being Kevin Bowe: Inside the IPR Sessions – Sophia Norwood

Award-winning singer/songwriter/producer/guitarist and IPR Instructor Kevin Bowe
(photo: Darin Back)

This blog is part a series of entries from inside the production mind of Audio Production & Engineering Associate Program Chair Kevin Bowe. Kevin will detail the audio production sessions that he and his Production Portfolio class run during the course of the term. Over the past year, Kevin and his class have worked with artists like Hot Date, Alexander Young, Jonah Marais, Batteryboy, Hot Date, Maudlin, Jake Ilika, and Communist Daughter. 

3/23/2016,  Mastermix A

A few weeks ago, I began mentoring a young woman named Sophia Norwood. I actually first heard about her from my old pal Tommy Barbarella, former Prince keyboardist. Tommy had helped her out on some project and mentioned that she was a great up-and-coming guitarist and singer. There is a local mentoring program, the Honors Mentor Connection, that I’ve worked with before and they ended up putting us together. Sophia has been sitting in on some AP292 classes and for her final project, she wrote AND arranged a song for her 6-piece classical guitar class from MacPhail Music School. Keep in mind, she’s only 17!!!!

All the students and their parents (and their teacher from MacPhail) came in to record the song – we had a full house. The students (aged 12-17) were totally prepared and played really well; we ended up getting the song in three takes. Our class put a high-end, small body condenser on each guitarist, as well as the stereo Royer on the room, and an SM7 on Sophia’s vocal.

The challenge was that one of the guitarists played a beat with her thumb tapping on the guitar body, alternating with playing a traditional string part and the volume difference had to be dealt with. We compromised by having her “tap” more lightly and compressing that mic (with a Distressor). We also compressed the stereo room mic with the lovely Neve 33609, it sounded great!

After they nailed the take we did some light editing to clean up the heads and tails of the tracks and started the mix. The guitars all sounded brilliant so we just did some minor EQ’ing, high pass filtering etc. Then we lightly compressed some of the tracks including Sophia’s vocal, all with a light touch since transparency is so important on organic music sources like this. A little verb and delay on the vocal and a couple of the guitars and we were set to go. After recording the unmastered mix to a stereo track we ran it out of Pro Tools and into the stereo Avalon EQ and the Neve 33609 for a subtle mastering chain. The results were fantastic, all the students and parents were really happy as the picture will show!

–Kevin Bowe

Sophia and her classmates from MacPhail in Mastermix A with Kevin Bowe and IPR students from Production Portfolio.

Some other recent blogs by Kevin Bowe include:

Being Kevin Bowe: Inside the IPR Sessions – Maudlin

Being Kevin Bowe: Inside the IPR Sessions – The Dirt Road Ramblers

Being Kevin Bowe: Inside the IPR Sessions – Eric Hohn