For years, Woosong College’s SIMUSIC (Sol International Popular Music) Department has been home to some of the biggest names in K-Pop, including: V.O.S.; Lee Minwoo and Kim Donghwan of Sinhwa; and Im Siwan, a songster heartthrob of the boy band ZE:A. And no one is more proud of the growing list of SIMUSIC alumni than Sung Cheol Lim, who is currently serving as the department’s adjunct professor.
His curriculum covers general music production techniques, with a focus on recording and mixing. If writing songs and lyrics, singing or playing instruments is seeding a garden, then recording and mixing is the watering process. To Professor Lim, teaching and mentoring his students is no different to spending hundreds of hours to mix a single song to perfection. His mission is to help them become truly independent music professionals, which is a lot more than simply giving lectures. And, as always, Pro Tools | S6 is by his side.
Digital Is the New Norm
Today, nearly everything has to be digital and “smart,” and music production is no different. Almost every step of music production workflow can be done in a box, by a single person, and it is accepted as standard. In contrast, recording and producing previously was a team effort that required songwriters, arrangers, engineers, and instrumentalists.
Previously, a song had to be pieced together by recording each track; if you needed 10 instruments, you had to have 10 people playing each one. But today you can easily produce a full album by yourself using a desktop computer, software and virtual instruments. It is indeed mind-blowing that you can have a fully functional music studio in your room, where you can access everything you need at your fingertips. That is the beauty of MIDI technology.
What’s more important is to learn how to mix with the software, not how to use a mixing controller. So it really contradicts the whole point of having a controller if it takes too much time learning how to use it. Everything has to be right there, intuitively accessible. I think that is what Pro Tools | S6 is all about.
SUNG CHEOL LIM, PROFESSOR AT WOOSONG COLLEGE
Pro Tools Shines in Digital Workflow
Pro Tools is truly versatile when it comes to digital music production, as it provides everything for your audio needs in one software product —from sequencing, recording and mixing, to mastering — and users are very happy with recent enhancements to its sequencing features. While mixing with Pro Tools can be done solely with a mouse and keyboard, it is far more efficient with the integration of the Pro Tools | S6 control surface. For example, you can only edit individual volume per track with a mouse, whereas with the Pro Tools | S6, it is possible to adjust volumes for multiple tracks at once.
First in Korea: Pro Tools | S6
In 2014 faculty members and Professor Lim agreed that the school’s recording studio, where the lectures are held, was in desperate need of an update. So Woosong College became the first location in South Korea to install Pro Tools | S6, replacing an analog TASCAM that was more than 10 years old.
As part of the upgrade, the department has also added a host of new equipment. In addition to built-in mic preamps and EQs, external preamps and compressors including Neve 1073DPA, Vintech X73, Avalon AD2022 and SSL G-series Compressor were brought in.
“I have been using Pro Tools professionally since 1996,” Lim says. “SIMUSIC Department was created in 1997, and we had been using the TASCAM ever since. Therefore, embracing digital systems was a task long overdue. And as a long time user of Avid, the first thing came to my mind was Pro Tools naturally.”
A Pro Tools system would typically consist of computers, software, audio interface and a control surface. Woosong’s SIMUSIC recording studio is now sporting Mac-based Pro Tools | HDX, Pro Tools | HD Software, and Pro Tools | S6. There is also another Pro Tools | HD Native system with C | 24 Controller set up in a separate lecture hall.
Students Enjoy Pro Tools | S6
With the Avid Pro Tools | S6 system built and designed for world-class professionals, whose quality standards are the absolute highest, there was a brief concern that, at first, students might have found it intimidating. But they soon fell in love with the system’s exceptional level of detail. For Professor Lim, its intuitiveness and efficiency proved to be the winning formula.
Lim needed the new system to have highly advanced features for seasoned veterans, yet be very user-friendly for beginner students. It also had to be durable and reliable, since the students were the ones who would spend the most time using it on their own. Lim was not surprised when his students had no difficulty learning how to use the Pro Tools | S6. He was confident they would love it.
“What’s more important is to learn how to mix with the software, not how to use a mixing controller. So it really contradicts the whole point of having a controller if it takes too much time learning how to use it. Everything has to be right there, intuitively accessible. I think that is what Pro Tools | S6 is all about,” he explains.
Empowering Music Education
The faculty’s decision to bring in the new Pro Tools | S6 system had a far-reaching constructive and innovative impact than originally expected because the entire curriculum had to be renewed and updated as well.
Previously, each professor used different tools and systems from one class to another, ranging from songwriting and vocals to recording to mixing. As a result, the students had to spend nearly a full semester learning and adapting to new tools.
Based on Lim’s suggestion, the department has since streamlined its overall program to be centered around Pro Tools and Logic. Freshmen students now learn to use Logic for basic songwriting courses, and sophomores are trained with Pro Tools for recording and mixing.
In an ideal world, having Pro Tools and Logic systems installed in two separate rooms would have been more practical. But for now, the students must continue using both on one system, in the same recording room. Fortunately, the new Pro Tools | S6 supports controls for Logic as well as Pro Tools. This is a benefit over the existing C|24, which only allowed Pro Tools.
Students Produce Albums with Pro Tools | S6
The new Pro Tools | S6 proved to be a fresh injection of creative power for the students, particularly because a number of students were already active as burgeoning, up-and-coming musicians and artists. Everyone was eager to take part in making the annual SIMUSIC project, the participants of which included the student-led project group “D.T.E.,” as well as the compiling of a student album titled SoLaMi.
Their songs are available on Korean online music services such as Melon and Bugs, allowing them to reach music fans anywhere, any time.
In Professor Lim’s view, the most valuable lessons can only be learned when the students are “out there” doing actual work, not sitting behind the desks reading and that is where his focus remains.
Professor Lim continues, “I encourage my students to keep thinking outside the box, break the mold and push the envelope. They need to keep their minds afresh in order to really connect to today’s audience, and face the challenge head on. That is how you really learn things in our industry, with your sleeves rolled up. Only the knowledge and know-how the students acquire that way will become truly theirs, and act as their guiding light in music career.”
There is little doubt in Professor Lim’s mind that the new Pro Tool | S6 will help him stay true to his principles. With the new systems in place, he feels confident that the students will spend more time and effort in becoming a creative artist without any unnecessary technical hassle.For Professor Lim and his fellow faculty members, the new Pro Tools | S6 really marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter.