From Stage to Stereo Since 1997

DSA: Frequently Asked Questions

1. How much advance notice do I need to give for booking my concert or session?
Most of the year, I am available on short notice. I prefer to have at least 2 weeks notice on all concerts and 1 week for sessions. During heavy volume seasons (October 10-December 16, and February 22-May 1), earlier notice allows me to coordinate equipment lists and my assistant engineers, if necessary. Earlier requests are also a higher guarantee that we will be able to accommodate you by assigning gear and personnel to handle your concert.

Addendum for UMSMTD students:  SCHEDULING RULES:

The UMSMTD allows currently enrolled students to book recording sessions in Britton Recital Hall and McIntosh Theatre on a limited basis.  Due to the automated scheduling system in place, these rules must be followed carefully and accurately, or your request for reservation will be denied.  The basic rules are:

–  Each student is allowed 2 hours of recording time per month

– The halls available for recording are Britton, McIntosh, Rehearsal Hall, BAM Organ Hall, and the Cady Room/Stearns Building.  Stamps is not available for student recordings.  It is restricted to Masters, Specialist, and Doctorate degree recitals only, as it is a space shared among the north campus community.

– Recording sessions are allowed 10pm-midnight daily, or 7am-noon on weekends.  Due to the high demand for these spaces, these restrictions are very firm.  If a time slot is free outside of these hours, they may only be booked within 48 hours of the time in question (the school keeps prime time open until 48 hours prior for lectures, classes, concerts, and other purposes)

– If you plan to use the 9-foot pianos (any piano that is locked – the student piano in Britton, the McIntosh piano, or the Stearns piano, all high quality Steinways), you must check out a piano key.  Without a key, you will have to use the rehearsal pianos, and they are not maintained as frequently as the performance pianos.  The keys are available to be picked up Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm.  For McIntosh Theatre, you also need a key to the lights if video is part of your recording session.

Any further questions about scheduling can be answered by the scheduling coordinator, Brittany DeYoung, in the Scheduling Office at the UMSMTD.

2. I need a small system to perform a piece with tape or CD/need a small sound system for my show. Can you accommodate this?
Yes.  Please visit our Live Sound Reinforcement page under Services

3. Do you do concerts outside of the UM campus?
Of course. I’ve recorded everywhere, from world class concert halls to the Everglades.

4. When can I expect to receive my recordings when we finish?

My standard turn-around is 1-2 days for CD, 2-5 days for DVDs. During my busy seasons, it’s dependent on how much editing I have to do. I have the capability to deliver audio CDs on site if necessary. Multitrack mixdowns and more complicated editing projects obviously take longer. It’s always a good idea to inform me of your deadlines before we begin the project.

5. I’ve seen your microphones at several concerts, and occasionally they are set up differently. What is the purpose of that?
Different instruments and voices, as well as different rooms, require different miking techniques. I prefer to use the AB spaced omnidirectional technique, though I often do Blumlein configurations with figure-8 patterns or ORTF cardioids. If this sounds complicated to you, check out Microphone University at

6. What kind of staging assistance do you offer?
Normally I handle most changes for ensembles up to 10 players. Chair, stand, and piano placement all have a significant effect on both the stage presence and the recording, so it’s beneficial for me to have some level of control over these things. Some recording situations will require my total attention focused on my rig, limiting my stagehand abilities. This will all be covered in pre-concert discussions.

7. I notice you use assistant engineers at some shows? Who are they and what are their qualifications?
Due to the high volume of concerts that overlap, I do rely on assistant engineers to cover some concerts. All of my engineers are thoroughly trained and observed by me to provide the exact same standards of recording that I do. I select my crew based on their abilities as musicians, their level of experience as performers, their ability to provide excellent service, and their technical knowledge or willingness and desire to learn and work with audio.

8. Where can I pick up my finished media?
Sometimes I deliver, sometimes I request that it is picked up at my studio/home. For U of M Music School recording work, I hold 3 meeting times a week at the message board from 12:30pm-1pm, MWF, when I find it is most convenient for people to find me.  In many cases I can make it available to you through my online file storage site.

9. What forms of payment do you accept?
I accept cash or check, due on site at the concert or before I surrender the final media. In the near future (spring 2012) we will be accepting credit cards.  I can also occasionally be persuaded to accept sushi or fine Scotch.

10. Do you do cover art?
Not usually. I leave this up to graphic artists and the performer, though I do design basic case inserts for DVDs and all final disc media comes printed with labeling, direct-to-disk.  I can create more elaborate, full-color CD and DVD labels for a small additional fee, as full disc images use a sizable volume of ink.

11. Is your archive available to the general public?
I will furnish any recording I have as long as you have permission from the performer to acquire it from me. All of my work is “for hire” unless otherwise specified through a contract of production. This means that the performer owns the recording and the rights to its use, within the legal realms of publishing rights pertaining to the music recorded.

12. What are my options for editing? How do you prepare for editing in sessions, and what are the ethics that apply?
Editing capabilities vary from piece to piece, instrument to instrument. In most situations, I cut phrases, but note to note edits are often possible. I am capable of cutting just about anything. I will generally offer to edit on site, allowing you to proof the cuts before we master the project. You should always be prepared to perform your pieces through, using retakes to patch problems and unsatisfactory ideas afterward. Some competitions and applications require unedited recordings. It is very easy to fool the ear with editing, but it defeats the purpose of the tape in these applications. They want to hear how you perform, not what you can make in a recording session. I highly discourage editing at all for these applications, as an edited tape is not an accurate presentation of a performance captured in one take. There is no editing in live auditions, and applications should not favor those who can afford editing and disfavor those who actually submit live takes. Ultimately, the ethical decision is yours on whether to edit or not, and all responsibility is yours once the recording is submitted.

In some cases, the rooms available for tracking do not have favorable acoustics for the applications at hand. I do occasionally use digital reverb programs and outboard equipment to enhance dry rooms, though I prefer to capture the real acoustics of the performance space.

I do use compression for many styles of music, and in many cases it’s necessary. I try to avoid using compression on classical recordings in order to preserve the natural dynamics of the performance. This is a subjective decision that is left up to the performer, or can be decided upon prior to mastering.

Edits (cuts) within video are possible with multiple cameras, but not single camera shots.  This is one of the reasons many applications require single camera video; they want to confirm that you have not spliced your recordings.

13. How do you archive your work, what do you keep, and for how long?
I archive all of my audio work as data files with lossless compression codecs such as FLAC and SHN. Multitrack projects get archived as backups of the Pro Tools sessions. I save all of my finished work on hard drives or DVD data discs indefinitely, chronologically cataloged and cross-referenced by concert program or session data sheets. This applies to everything I’ve recorded since 2000, with some material saved from 1997-1999. I do not usually archive video, except to save samples for demonstrations of my work or to preserve larger projects, though I can furnish all master files if the client provides a hard drive.

14. Who designed your website?
My site is designed and maintained by my good friend Brad Greenhill of Stereo Interactive. You can access their site through my links.  As Feb. 2012, I am now updating the content myself with Stereo Interactive authoring the layout and coding of the site.

15. How long does it take for you to produce concert and session DVDs?
It is a common misconception that DVD video can be made as quickly as CDs can. There are two rendering (processing) sequences that need to happen before the disc is burned: one to render the video, audio, titling, and edits down to a finished .avi movie file, and one to render the authoring of the actual DVD. I usually take 2-3 days to produce DVDs unless there is a high volume of work in front of it, in which case it can take a week or two. The entire process can take anywhere from 4-8 hours, depending on the length, editing and authoring that is involved. I CAN occasionally produce DVDs overnight, if it’s really necessary, for an additional rush job fee, though it’s recommended to plan video recordings for DVD well in advance of deadlines.

16. Can I copy a piece or movement off of a DVD and make another DVD?
Not really. DVDs are not formatted as a sequence of tracks….they are usually a single film with markers that act as locators. You cannot “rip tracks” like you can from CD. If you want individual pieces or parts of a full video, it involves rendering a completely separate movie and DVD.  With all current videos, you will receive a set of data DVDs with HD video files.  These are 1920×1080 30p .mp4 files that can be easily edited into different forms.  These files are also web-ready, at the highest quality level youtube and other hosting sites will allow.

17. Do you have a video package without audio option?
This request is interesting: I usually assume that it means “video without the audio rig…using the built-in camera mic as a cost saver.”  Audio is included in all packages.  I can’t imagine a video of music without a good audio track.

18. Do you offer uploading of video to youtube and other forums?
We do now. If you’d like any of your finished work to be posted on video sharing sites, be it individual pieces, movements, songs, or the entire concert, I can do it for an additional fee (covering labor and equipment time). Each selection will be individually rendered from the master files to .mp4 files and posted on the site of your choice, or we can offer hosting of the video on the DSA YouTube channel. Please ask me for more details and rates.

19. I have/am getting a flash recorder for practicing. What kind of microphone and accessories do you recommend? How much should I expect to spend?
I highly recommend the Audio-Technica 822 stereo microphone for its cost vs. sound. Many flash recorders have their own built in mics which are invaluable for convenience in practicing reference, although my experience with them is that they are very rough sounding and tonally inaccurate for serious recording.

20. I want to make my own copies of my CD. What do you suggest for this?
For Windows users, I highly recommend ripping audio CDs only with Exact Audio Copy. It is a free, downloadable program that is simple to use. This software scans the disc for interruptions in the bit stream with total accuracy as the goal for the copy, not speed. This is a good way to ensure that your copy does not have audible clicks or dropouts. Audio CDs are notoriously insecure for accurate data transmission, due to the nature of their fragility, and the method with which they are written and read by lasers. This is the reason CD players all have “oversampling” to smooth or mask temporary interruptions or glitches in playback. This is also the reason I archive data files, not audio CDs. It’s always a good idea to keep a backup of your valuable recordings and not handle them, play them, or expose them to light or climactic extremes, specifically for the purpose of always having a clean copy. Exact Audio Copy can be downloaded from For Mac users, iTunes has proven to be relatively secure for ripping, though my experience with this is limited, and there is no version of EAC for Mac- I generally suggest copying the disc with the Finder . Do not perform disc-to-disc copying in real time. This is just asking for problems with errors.

21. Do you offer internships? I have an interest in audio recording; how can I become an assistant engineer?

I take on interns and assistants on the basis of availability of work and willingness to learn, as well as compatibility of everyone’s schedules. If you express an interest in working with me, I will notify you if and when I can begin training you and when you can begin assisting me. The crew currently consists of about 7-8 people.

Requirements are:

  • either have some previous experience in audio recording and technology or exceptional musical abilities
  • demonstration of exceptional listening/hearing abilities
  • a good work ethic, and calm under pressure
  • be a quick learner, intelligent, and have an attention to detail
  • be friendly and presentable with excellent people skills
  • be willing to attentively listen to music you may not personally enjoy listening to
  • be able to lift at least 35 lbs.
  • must have a sense of humor

22. Do you have a sense of humor?
Of course.

23. What is the meaning of life?
It’s an excellent Monty Python film. Douglas Adams believes it’s 42. I think it’s happiness, love, and satisfaction, but I’m not always right.


© 2005-2012 Dave Schall Acoustic. All Rights Reserved.