Budding recording artists take notice – homegrown audio ace Brandon Hoffman is teaching a class for you starting next week.
If the local arts and music scene is like an electrical circuit, then Brandon Hoffman is the switch or maybe even the transistor. Since Brandon’s return to the Cariboo a few years ago, you may have noted an upswing in quality live music, awesome sound at public events and even a more colourful Central Cariboo Arts Centre. The scene before he came back was fine, really, but since this sharp audio wizard hit the switch, there’s a smooth flow to the way the current moves around the scene.
What may not be as evident to the untrained eye is that this electro-magnetic fellow is a teacher. While earning his degree in Communications at SFU, Brandon was also holding down a job at Stylus College, the very school where he himself had earned a diploma in Independent Music Production. Brandon’s relationship to Stylus was positive from the start, and after graduating at the top of his class, teaching classes in Synthesis, Recording techniques and Audio/Midi was a natural progression for all involved.
This month, Brandon brings his expertise home in a six-week course called Shut-up and Make a Record! It’s designed for musicians who are interested in laying down their tracks on tape, and covers setting up your recording space to mixing and mastering. “With a little instruction on EQ, compressors, how to properly record and mix a song,” Brandon explains, “participants could have something that sounds radio quality.”
Inspired by a Grade 7 class he taught with Dena Baumann at Columneetza, Brandon perceived a pool of potential where he could have some influence. “The students were amazing,” adds Brandon. Within a few days, they had created instruments, songs and recordings that displayed the nuanced grip they had with technology. “They had a fearless way of exploring the recording technology,” Brandon observed.
Brandon wishes someone had taught him this stuff when he was breaking out into music. He describes getting serious about music whilst in Grade 5, when he and some buds formed Wolverick. The name changed to Plethora of Destruction (note the emphasis on pleth-OR-a, please), harnessing the intense energy that tween aged boys can have. What genre, you might ask? “Let’s call it clunky garage rock,” Brandon recalls with a smile. The band was a gateway tonic to playing instruments and recording them, at first using his dad’s old gear, then moving on to software like Cool Edit Pro to keep developing the skills to capture what he and his friends were creating.
There was a bit of a detour in College, when Brandon convinced himself that Mechanical Engineering was a noble path to pursue (as it is for some!!). The grip on sanity during that year and a half was due in large part to the therapeutic use of music making, and soon enough Brandon decided that music production was a worthy pursuit for such a fellow. Enter Stylus College, teaching and finally, opening his own home studio in Vancouver under the handle Gnomegrown Music. A list of Brandon’s accomplishments could follow here. Instead, follow the links at the end of the article to explore his many and multiple sonic adventures.
Rather electrified to work with this crackerjack, Community Arts Council of Williams Lake (CACWL) happily championed Brandon’s course, with the support of the City of Williams Lake and the Cariboo Regional District via the Central Cariboo Arts and Culture Society. As part of our project Soundscapes the course targets youth seeking arts instruction and development in their musical skills. Little do they know they are entering the realm of Audio-Wizardry (cue Hogwarts-esque music and mood)! All magical thinking aside, CACWL feels confident that the participants are in for a feast of good information.
The course starts Tuesday, April 25th at 4 pm and runs for 1 ½ hrs each class. Workshop fees are $40, and are payable to CACWL. We recommend pre-registration, as only 10 spots are available!
Here’s a run down of what Brandon will cover in six weeks:
Week 1 - Setting up your space: making a good recording and mixing environment both technically and creativity. Speaker location, "baffling", standing waves and "flutter"; how putting a nice heavy blanket on the right wall can make a world of difference (We'll do a lot of clapping and shouting). Which shape and size of room is best, and what can you do when you only have the worst to work with. We’ll also talk about isolation – keeping the outside world out of your recordings, and your neighbors/parents happy.
Week 2 - Setting up your DAW (digital audio workstation): Learning what's available and what you will need to get started in practically any style of music. We'll talk a bit about microphones and interfaces, and what free recording programs and "virtual instruments" are available. The basic needs of a recording artists varies greatly between different styles, but there’s a ton available for free or cheap, and these days no genre is off limits.
Week 3 - Recording 101: single-mic techniques; from getting the thing plugged in, to putting it in the right place on any instrument. "Monitoring," or making sure you can hear everything you need to hear while you're recording. We’ll compare the sounds of a couple different microphones, and spend the day following our ears.
Week 4 - Recording 102: multi-mic recording; recording with two or more mics at the same time. Down the rabbit-hole we go! What’s up with “phase?” Matchedpairs? X-Y or ORTF mic’ing?
Week 5- Mixing 101: EQ? Levels? Panning? Oh my! Once you have some different elements recorded (digital, 'virtual' instruments, real instruments, vocals, or any combination) what can you do to make sure everything is balanced and clear? Plug-ins?
Week 6 - Mixing 102: We will focus a bit more, and dive into the mysterious world of EQ (equalizing) a little deeper. And lastly, the great mixdown. All you need is a computer, tablet, or multi-track recorder, microphone (even a computer’s built-in mic is fine) and your own creativity. There is no need to bring gear to class; each week you will be given a small homework assignment to figure out on your own. In class, we will use Audacity (a totally free open-source recording program), but our techniques will be useful in Garage Band, Ableton, or any other recording program (including all-in-one desktop recording devices).
This is a lot of information to move through in only six weeks! Weekly homework assignments will not be huge, but you will need to spend at least a couple hours per week between classes to keep up. This class is for the rad, self-motivated individual who just wants a bit of practical help realizing their musical vision.
By the end of the six weeks, each student will have created at least one song using their own home recording setup, and have the basic tools to make their first hit record. The class is limited to just 10 students to ensure everyone gets a thorough and custom-tailored learning experience. Brandon will professionally master all the final projects and supply students with a compilation CD to show off all their hard work.
To find out more about Brandon, Gnomegrown Music and Blocktreat, visit:
Interested in registering? Drop us a line here: