One time I was examining a horn miking setup in Studio B (at Ivar) with Wally. He told me the coolest, simplest horn miking technique I have ever heard of. “Sherman,” he said, “we always used to put the horn mike slightly above where the player’s horns were when they were seated. Especially for a live gig.” Why did you put the mikes off-axis? “The horn arrangements were/are very complex. You never knew which horn player was going to play a solo. So we mike them from slightly above so that when they stood to take their solo the would be exactly on-mike and would automatically be raised in the mix for their solo. If you got the mike position just right, you didn’t even have to touch a fader.”
Wally was always sharing secrets like these. He knew SO much! He is the one that should have written a book on how to do sound engineering!
Sherman Barrymore Keene
A long long time ago I was speaking to Wally who was visiting me in the original Studio 3 off Selma. One thing I remember that Wally told me was that, when the studio was first built and wired, that there was a terrible hum in the (ancient) recording console. No matter how well they grounded everything, there was still a terrible hum. So Wally knew that old RCA 77s (ribbon mikes) were good as hum finders, so he hooked one up, put on a pair of headphones to monitor the mike’s signal and went hum fishing. He walked all over the control room and studio and finally concluded that the hum came from directly below the console!
So they started digging. The dug down (I forget how many feet) and discovered a huge power line and, even worse, a huge power transformer. Wally “persuaded” the power company to move the transformer somewhere other than under a recording console in his recording studio. Once they did that, the studio was perfectly quiet.
This is the studio where Ampex (with Wally’s coaching and encouragement) delivered the world’s first eight track! Can you imagine? Eight separate tracks! Musicians went crazy. Up to then, there was live to mono, live to stereo 2-track and live to disc. Dave Grusin’s first (at least I think it was his first) album was recorded live direct-to-disc at The Mastering Lab starring Dave and Doug Sax. Dave was the master of passive electronics and Doug was an extraordinary disc mastering engineer. So one night, long ago, Wally Heider’s got an eight track and the world hasn’t been the same since.