Max Sverdlove, President/Lead Engineer (center),
with Alex Majewski (left) and Ernest Werbel (right) assisting,
at the session of a live concert recording. - January 2015
My story as a recording engineer must start at the very beginning. Before I became New Jersey’s specialist in recording classical music on location for concerts, recitals, auditions, and commercial albums, as a young violin student, when I first had to send audition recordings of myself to summer music festivals, I initially used my family’s consumer grade portable tape recorder. It became evident rather quickly that the quality of these recordings were not up to par with those that my competition was spending hundreds of dollars recording in professional studios. As such, I was never accepted at any of the programs I applied to until my parents insisted I go on live auditions.
And nowadays, some of the top schools require a pre-screening audition recording. You may ask, “are today’s consumer recording devices satisfactory for producing an audition recording?” Let me illustrate why they are not.
When I was a student, my parents invested in a professional quality Tascam tape cassette recorder. I remember listening in disbelief to the difference in quality of these recordings in comparison to those I had produced with the portable tape recorder my father had purchased a few years beforehand. Later on, I would also find out that the professional-quality microphones that we purchased with the Tascam had also been a major factor in producing the better sound quality.
In order to properly record a classical musician, one must know how to position microphones in such a way as to best record not only the musician, but the ambiance of the room. Without the proper equipment, you will be left with a certainly recognizable recording, but not one you would want to send off to schools, music festivals, competitions, and management agencies. Remember, your competition is still using professional recording studios.
When I attended high school, I took courses in music and video technology, broadcasting, recording, and editing. The skills I learned enabled me to compete with other students sending in audition tapes. I was one of the first students to send in professional quality video tapes as auditions for entrance into undergraduate degree programs. Today, many schools require not only audio recordings, but videos. Even professional cameras do not have good quality on-board microphones and require professional audio equipment to be used in conjunction with their output. This knowledge was a critical factor in developing Musical Horizon, LLC’s video services.
In 2000, I was accepted with a merit-scholarship to Penn State University as a violin performance major. In my sophomore year at Penn State, the School of Music acquired professional recording gear for use in their recital hall. I decided to take advantage of this equipment in order to benefit myself as a violinist. Other students quickly found out that I knew how to use the equipment and started asking me if I could record their recitals and audition CDs. This prompted the School of Music to create a list of “Penn State School of Music Qualified Recording Engineers.” I was one of the first people on this list, and my services became extremely popular and were used by many of the School of Music’s professors, students, and ensembles. One of the first recordings I produced at Penn State was for a grant recording by Professors James Lyon (violin) and Marylène Dosse (piano) for their CD, “French Romantic Women Composers.” It is currently for sale on Apple’s iTunes Music Store.
While attending Penn State, I was under the supervision of Mark Ballora, Penn State’s professor of music technology and integrative arts. His expertise, lectures, and advice guided me and improved my recording and editing skills and techniques over the three years in which I was a student recording engineer.
In May 2005, as a proud graduate of Penn State, I decided to continue my services at home and had to make a decision. Was it better to build my own traditional brick and motor recording studio? Or, should I continue offering on location mobile studio services? The answer was an easy one!
My decision was the right one. I purchased my own professional equipment from some of the top retailers in the industry and expanded my company to service areas in New Jersey and New York City. Also, I started advertising services in several NJ music journals, as well as in the local yellow pages.
• Mobile Recording and Editing awarded the winners of the NJ Chapter of the American String Teacher’s Association’s Solo Competition and String Quartet Festival Competition with recording contracts. We also expanded our service to cover areas in Eastern Pennsylvania.
• In early February 2007, Mobile Recording and Editing added a mass duplication and CD printing service. In April 2007, we fully integrated a videography service, Horizon Videography.
• Mobile Recording and Editing became Musical Horizon, LLC and we also expanded our distribution services.
• Musical Horizon, LLC released its first commercial album for sale. We started inviting other artists and ensembles to join us in our quest to promote exceptional talent on the new label.
• With the help of professional designers and copywriters, Musical Horizon, LLC revamped its website and launched its own blog, Recording On Location.
• Musical Horizon, LLC started trials of “digital-file-only” products due to the increasing fade-out of CDs and DVDs. Later in September 2013 our video services were upgraded to be completely High Definition – this included purchasing a new camera, new hard drives, new software, etc. We also decided to upgrade/replace several other pieces of gear.
• Musical Horizon, LLC officially began offering Digital File packages along with CD packages – new contracts were drafted to reflect these new options and the website was rewritten accordingly. In March 2014, Musical Horizon, LLC began offering its online audio editing services.
• Beginning in January 2015, by popular demand, Musical Horizon, LLC added video-only options for auditions and recital recordings. In November 2015, Musical Horizon, LLC started offering Audio and Video Files on USB Thumb Drives.
Looking out onto the horizon, Musical Horizon, LLC strives to find new emerging talent and to help build and foster already developed clientele.
– Max Sverdlove, President and Lead Engineer