The Austin “Lollipop” Studio Singers

by Gary Powell

Austin Session PhotoWalt Disney’s new animated feature movie “Chicken Little” is due in theatres on November 4, 2005. Chances are pretty good that there you might hear the 1958 song “Lollipop”, written by Ross and Dixon, originally performed by the Chordettes.

Ted Kryczko, Vice President of Product Development for Walt Disney Records, calls saying we’re going to cover the song on an upcoming release in support of the movie. When I get the call, immediately my head starts spinning in search of the perfect singers. In this case, it was simple. Which three Austin studio singers could best replicate possibly the most white-bread, bubble-gum infectious tune ever perpetrated on the Amercian musical scene? So who best to deliver the “cheese” factor but Jerome Schoolar, Rebecca Schoolar (Jerome’s sister) and Meredith McCall. Beyond their cheesiness, all three singers have many credits in my studio and active careers themselves in theatre and TV.

Our mission was to pretty much cover the original vocal sound which is a simple three part texture. With these three singers in front on the mics we started running through the parts. What we found was something that happens in many of our old favorite songs. The Chordettes were not very accurate at keeping the vocal texture in three parts. Occasionally, just like with the great “Peter, Paul and Mary”, the singers would accidentally drop into two parts. This happens not by design, but by being unconscious.

So, do we replicate the unconsious mistakes or fix them? We chose to fix them. The only thing most civilians will notice is that the song sounds SO much better. This stealthy integrity is what most professionals build and sneak into their content… despite focus groups. (There, I said it and I’m glad!)

Most of the vocal changes and burdon fell on Jerome, who sang the lowest part, singing more difficult intervals in order to keep the vocal texture full and in three parts. This created a part that a “non-musician” singer would never choose. This takes some discernment and a good ear which is not the easiest route to pizza and a beer at the end of the day.

The result, however, is SO worth it. We recorded the singers in two passes, each pass with all three parts. We panned each pass left and right at about 10 and 2! (If you have questions about what this means, just post the question here.) This is the same technique that “The Manhattan Transfer” uses to get their signature sound. Jerome, Rebecca and Meredith delivered up the goods that are in tune, perfectly articulated as a group all with the bright AM Radio sound of the original Chordettes.

Thanks you guys, for another fun evening in the studio.

by Gary Powell

Austin Session PhotoWalt Disney’s new animated feature movie “Chicken Little” is due in theatres on November 4, 2005. Chances are pretty good that there you might hear the 1958 song “Lollipop”, written by Ross and Dixon, originally performed by the Chordettes.

Ted Kryczko, Vice President of Product Development for Walt Disney Records, calls saying we’re going to cover the song on an upcoming release in support of the movie. When I get the call, immediately my head starts spinning in search of the perfect singers. In this case, it was simple. Which three Austin studio singers could best replicate possibly the most white-bread, bubble-gum infectious tune ever perpetrated on the Amercian musical scene? So who best to deliver the “cheese” factor but Jerome Schoolar, Rebecca Schoolar (Jerome’s sister) and Meredith McCall. Beyond their cheesiness, all three singers have many credits in my studio and active careers themselves in theatre and TV.

Our mission was to pretty much cover the original vocal sound which is a simple three part texture. With these three singers in front on the mics we started running through the parts. What we found was something that happens in many of our old favorite songs. The Chordettes were not very accurate at keeping the vocal texture in three parts. Occasionally, just like with the great “Peter, Paul and Mary”, the singers would accidentally drop into two parts. This happens not by design, but by being unconscious.

So, do we replicate the unconsious mistakes or fix them? We chose to fix them. The only thing most civilians will notice is that the song sounds SO much better. This stealthy integrity is what most professionals build and sneak into their content… despite focus groups. (There, I said it and I’m glad!)

Most of the vocal changes and burdon fell on Jerome, who sang the lowest part, singing more difficult intervals in order to keep the vocal texture full and in three parts. This created a part that a “non-musician” singer would never choose. This takes some discernment and a good ear which is not the easiest route to pizza and a beer at the end of the day.

The result, however, is SO worth it. We recorded the singers in two passes, each pass with all three parts. We panned each pass left and right at about 10 and 2! (If you have questions about what this means, just post the question here.) This is the same technique that “The Manhattan Transfer” uses to get their signature sound. Jerome, Rebecca and Meredith delivered up the goods that are in tune, perfectly articulated as a group all with the bright AM Radio sound of the original Chordettes.

Thanks you guys, for another fun evening in the studio.

4 thoughts on “The Austin “Lollipop” Studio Singers”

  1. Susan, when “mixing” we are combining all the recorded musical elements into two speakers. The sound, however, does not sound like two speakers. The sound actually is a little wider than the speakers themselves and it also fills the space between the speakers. We call this the “stereo field” and we designate the placement of a particular instrument by using the physical metaphor of a clock face. Placing a dulcimer only in the left speaker would be called “panned hard left” or at 9 o’clock. Thusly, placing your harmonium only in the right speaker would be call “panned hard right” or at 3 o’clock. As we “pan” individual instruments across the stereo field we create an aural image that is greater than just two speakers. A flute panned just left of center might be designated as being at 11 o’clock. Usually, we place the lead vocal at 12 o’clock, but here we prefer the words “center” or “dead center”. From left to right in the stereo field we would probably use these terms:
    hard left, 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock, dead center, 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, hard right

    Panning is just one of the elements of learning the art and science of mixing. I hope this helps explain it. Thanks for asking. — GP

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