Joe Barresi: Tracking Rock Instructional Video
By Russ Long
Joe Barresi’s long list of credits, which includes his work with Queens of The Stone Age, Tool, Weezer, Bad Religion and dozens more, easily lands him a place on the short list of the industry’s most influential rock producers and engineers. Thankfully, in Barresi’s case, his tremendous success hasn’t led to a matching ego and he has generously shared his talent with the public in his new 2 hour, 44 minute HD video, Joe Barresi: Tracking Rock. The program is a behind the scenes documentary that walks the viewer through the three-day process of Barresi producing a track with the alt-rock band Zico Chain. It includes the signal path of every instrument recorded and the implementation of Joe’s massive collection of mics, amplifiers, cabinets and audio processing gear. Also included are the song’s Pro Tools session, an OMF file (allowing the session to be opened in other DAWs) and the raw audio tracks allowing critical listening and analysis. A release of Joe mixing the song on his SSL 4000 console will be made available Q3 of 2011.
Joe Barresi: Tracking Rock was shot entirely in high-definition video and it looks fantastic. The program is not available in DVD or Blu-ray formats; instead, it has been optimized for on-computer viewing as well as viewing on the iPad, iPod, and iPhone-4 formats. I watched the program primarily on my iPad but I also spent time with it on my computer and iPhone and it always translated well.
The documentary begins with a tour of Joe’s House of Compression (Barresi’s studio) and then jumps into recording. Beginning with drums, it moves to bass, guitar, and then vocals and in each instance there is a setup chapter (e.g. Drum Setup, Bass Setup, etc.) which is Joe talking through his setup of that chapter’s instrument followed by a tracking chapter (e.g. Guitar Tracking, Vocal Tracking, etc.) which captures the actual recording process including Barresi’s interaction with the musician or vocalist. The setup chapters include Joe’s thorough signal-path explanations (although exact gear settings are justifiably but unfortunately not included) and are complimented with visualizations that show signal flow-charts, gear photos and gear costs making it easy (though possibly quite expensive!) to precisely emulate one or all of Barresi’s signal paths. The gear explanations are complimented with “Joe’s notes,” which provide a brief comment on a specific piece of gear. For example, Joe’s notes for the Univox Cabinet used with the bass guitar reads, “Likes it for distortion. Uses it for guitar, bass, and keyboards. Hard to blow it up, indestructible.” But my favorite is Joe’s unnamed staple guitar amp that is only known as “Top Secret” in the program where Joe’s notes reads, “Every pro has his secrets. Go find your own.”
Besides being brilliant at what he does, Barresi is funny. Not just mildly funny but really funny. It’s no wonder bands are happy to spend months in the studio with this guy. The program concludes with a 50-minute discussion/interview between Tony Shepperd, one of the project’s producers (and a world-class engineer in his own right) and Barresi, which is worth the price of the program itself.
The less experienced among us may not realize how tracking a band is an entirely different animal than tracking individual musicians and Joe Barresi: Tracking Rock not only captures all of the technical essentials to tracking, but it also demonstrates the successful dynamic between a band and a tracking engineer/producer. And this dynamic is as important if not more important than the technical end of things. Barresi demonstrates this concept perfectly. The most amazing thing about this program is that it is packed full of information for both the beginner and the seasoned pro. One would be hard pressed to find an engineer that wouldn’t benefit from this documentary in one way or another. I know I’ll be revisiting it myself from time to time.
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