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  • Creating an Echo

  • Even though "Grandma Tutu" is miles away, her 4-year-old grandson can listen to her recount folk stories from Japan, China or Hawaii.
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  • Even though "Grandma Tutu" is miles away, her 4-year-old grandson can listen to her recount folk stories from Japan, China or Hawaii.
    Diana Versluis, a Southern Oregon University professor, is recording herself reading children's books at a professional studio in Medford as a way of staying close to her grandson.
    "It's my legacy," Versluis explains. "They are all from grandma with love."
    "Tutu," which means "grandma" in Hawaiian, had worked in the broadcasting field, so she wanted higher quality recordings than she could make at home.
    A studio recording produces superior audio, Versluis says. A professional can eliminate pops and other extraneous sounds and seamlessly splice together retakes. She wanted a little bell to sound in the recording so her grandson would know when it is time to turn the page as he reads along.
    And she wanted to incorporate music she'd selected.
    Versluis turned to Bluejay Productions in Medford, where owner Mark Johnson guided her through the process.
    Johnson has spent 11 years locally spinning musical and auditory dreams into professional CDs.
    "Our job, as a recording engineer, is psychology as much as the music," he says. "A lot of it is getting people relaxed. You've got to talk them through the nervousness."
    Some people come to him with fully fleshed musical ideas, while others need a little help.
    For many, the recording studio can be a disorienting experience because they've never heard their own voice as others hear it.
    "When people hear their voice it's a shocker," Johnson says. "That's a really common expression."
    Frank Charley went to Johnson recently for help doing a gospel duet with friend Sandra Fry of Eagle Point. Charley, a 65-year-old Medford resident, started singing in his church choir.
    "I had a guitar that I've plunked for about 30 years," he says. "This is all new to me. I've never stepped forward and tried to do anything with singing."
    He got the idea to record after working on a gospel song his brother-in-law wrote 35 years ago.
    "We got to playing around with it," he says. Then, another seven songs got added to his playlist.
    "We thought, why not put these songs on a CD for ourselves?" he says. "We could hand it down to our family members and our kids. They'd have something from us after we are gone."
    Charley says Johnson recommended they lay down different tracks for the voices and the 12-string guitar.
    "We went in there not knowing what we're doing," he says.
    At first, he thought it would be too difficult to record separately. Also, he was worried about costs, even though Johnson charged them $35 an hour, a much cheaper rate than other recording studios Charley checked into.
    After the recording session, Charley changed his mind. He says the sound quality is much improved by recording individual tracks and using a sound booth to record the voices.
    "We're going to go back and do it piece by piece," he says. "We will do it the way he says it."
    Tom Freeman, owner of Freeman Sound Studio in Ashland, has helped many would-be musicians better understand their muses.
    "Sound engineering is a different head space than being a performer," he says.
    Sitting at home strumming a tune requires another set of skills than dialing in the sound for a proper recording.
    "For the first time, the main thing is to be prepared with the music as much as possible," Freeman says. "Some people don't have a plan at all. They would save time, money and frustration by being as prepared as possible."
    Preparation is key to keeping the mood relaxed in the sound studio and to keep recording time costs down, Freeman says. Preparation is also key to keeping the inspiration alive in the room, he says.
    "It's always best when everybody is 100 percent relaxed," he says.
    Some of his clients aren't connected to the music scene, so they must look for other instruments to flesh out the recording.
    "I know a lot of players," says Freeman, who is a drummer. "I know the one who can learn the tune quick."
    Those experienced musicians can add depth and color to a song.
    Novices find themselves in a more objective space when they listen to their music in a studio.
    More accomplished musicians often have things figured out before they arrive, he says.
    For those who are comfortable with the idea of a recording studio, they wouldn't record any other way.
    Versluis says she's comfortable in a sound booth with headphones on so she can communicate with Johnson.
    She says she got the idea of recording some seven folk stories about a year ago.
    "Apparently, my grandson loved it," she says.
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email dmann@mailtribune.com.
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