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Scouting out music

Young troop learns that recording a CD takes a lot of work

Lot of youngsters are very much into the music scene these days. They've seen the videos; they've heard the songs. Even 9- and 10-year-olds can quote the lyrics to the latest hit from 'N Sync and know the latest on Britney Spears. They know of the glamour, the glitz, the popularity.

What they don't know much about is the other side of the album — the fact that making music requires a lot of hard work.

But that was the side that a group of West Valley Girl Scouts got to learn about recently when they visited local musician Clive Romney's recording studio.

The group of Brownie and Junior Scouts, sponsored by West Valley City under a federal Weed and Seed grant, wanted to earn their "Tryits" and badges in music. Leaders Amy Fox and Ingrid Burwell thought a visit to the studio would be a good place to start.

"Just like everyone else this age, they are very into music," said Burwell. "It's so exciting for them to be inside a real studio."

Romney thought that instead of just explaining how it all works, he would take them through the process. He would help them record a couple of songs of their own, which he would burn onto a CD that could then be copied, so that the girls each had one to keep.

It wouldn't be quite the way most CDs are made, because the girls would be singing along to music tracks already recorded. Most songs, he explained, are laid down one track at a time. Often the words are sung first just to a basic musical accompaniment. If more than one singer is performing, they can even do their parts one at a time.

He explained how the two rooms of the studio are set up, so that the singers are on one side of a glass window and the technicians on the other. He showed how the music is put into a computer and how the tracks can be mixed together. The days of large orchestras coming into the studio and recording everything on magnetic tape are pretty much gone, he explained. Nowadays, everything is digitized and computerized.

Romney talked about the studio, how it is built to control sound. "Echo is bad," he said. "But reverberation is good."

Then it was time to decide which songs to record. The girls wanted to do one Girl Scout song and one of their favorite pop songs. They yelled out their favorites. Wait, said Fox, "do you know the words to all those? It won't be any fun if you don't know all the words." Oh, yeah, said the girls, they hadn't thought about that.

After considering a lot of possibilities "Bye, Bye, Bye" by 'N Sync was finally chosen. If nothing else, they could all come in on the "bye, bye, bye" chorus.

It took more time to decide who would be able to use the headphones; there weren't enough for all of the 30 or so girls. So the leaders devised a system that would let the girls could take turns.

And the recording began.

But there were more lessons to be learned:

— It's a good idea to spit out your gum before you start singing.

— Volume is not as important as sound — it's better to sing than yell.

— Sometimes you have to do things again and again to get them right.

— Everything always takes longer than you think it will.

— And it is hard work.

"Were we good?" the girls asked after the recording session was over, clearly hoping for high praise. "You were acceptable," Romney told them honestly. "If you want to be really good, you would need to practice hard."

Music, they learned, is not all glitz and glamour.

But that's a good lesson, said Burwell. "And it's good for them to understand the different jobs that are involved in the music business. Not everyone will be the star, but there are still lots of opportunities."

And opportunities are what this Scout troop is all about. "It's really fun to be able to give the girls experiences like this," said Fox, "let them see something that they might not otherwise learn about."

Betty Borden, a service unit director who has been in Girl Scouts for 40 years, agreed. Anytime you can combine fun with learning, you are a step ahead, she said. "These girls are having a good time, but they get to see all the different aspects of what makes music.

"We like to say Girl Scouts is where girls grow strong," she added. Growing, learning, trying new things is what it is all about.

Working with the girls is great, said Fox. "I go home every Tuesday feeling like a better person because of them."

And while this recording session may have required more patience, more learning, more time than usual, Romney, too, enjoyed the experience.

One of the girls in particular caught his eye. "Did you see her?" he asked. "Amidst all the hullabaloo, there she was just soaking up the music. Just loving it."

That's the neat thing about music, he said. "It hits everybody on his or her own level. But there is truly something in it for everyone."

Even Girl Scouts on their first recording experience.