Monday, 29 September 2014

BPI invites you to the big music project, London.

The Big Music Project is one of the most exciting and ambitious youth music projects the BPI has ever supported.  Throughout the course of the project we will aim to reach more than 4.5 million young music lovers aged 14 to 24 to give them the chance to pick up an instrument, learn about the music business and make the right moves towards turning their creativity into their career.  We’ve joined forces with Global Radio’s Capital FM and youth work charity UK Youth to help youngsters from every corner of the UK take a step closer to their dream career.  The Big Music Project is funded by The Big Lottery Fund to the tune of £4 million.  You can check out the project at

Following on from The Big Music Project Live in Glasgow where 900 young people came down to see us, we will be making our way toThe Brewery in London on Saturday 4th October from 11.00am – 7.30pm.  The day will be packed with live music, big name speakers, first class advice from industry experts, information on work opportunities in the local area, the chance to find out how this project can make a difference in the local community and performances from Becky HillChase & StatusEliza DoolittleMNEK and more.

We’d love it if you could join us to see the project in action!  Please RSVP to

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Recording Rooney

One part of recording that is increasingly in demand and yet often overlooked is that of the voiceover.
Its can mean long dull (yet often lucrative) days of simply pressing record with little or no creative input at all. Conversely if directing as well it can be very enjoyable.

I have a lot of experience in voice direction and recording dialogue for computer games. Each game has a standard of four languages in addition to English, commonly referred to as FIGS - French Italian, German and Spanish. so 4/5s of the dialogue you record and then edit isn't even in English.

Its not not uncommon for games to have upwards of 11,000 lines in each language. You can imagine the monotony of recording editing and managing 55,000 wav files, most of which aren't even in English.

However, sometimes there are terribly exciting days. Much like my Monday. M'colleague, Hugh Edwards, "renowned" voice director, and I packed up the car and headed to Old Trafford to record three Manchester United players for a gambling application.

We took two mobile rigs with us consisting of a mobile booth (or sound boards) Macbook Pros running ProTools, Focusrite 2i2s and a Sennheiser MK4 mics along with various cables and baffles etc.

The players we were to record were Rooney, Fletcher and Rafael. We had a limited amount of time and there was a Motion Capture set-up which had to film some facial movements. Once we were set Hugh decided the easiest way was to cue the players with their lines as opposed to letting them simply read the script.

This entailed Hugh reading each line and the players then repeating (almost) exactly what Hugh had said and how he had said it. We ran two lines for level for each player and ran the whole script twice for each.

Once set we were done within an hour - Audio Ninjas!!!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Hattie Brigg's First Single Release

2014 BBC2 Folk Award Nominee Hattie Briggs has her first single out now from her debut album Red and Gold which will be released in 2015. Produced and Co-written by Associate Lecturer Peter Waterman and Mixed by Audio/Music Production Lecturer Warren Bassett.

Pictures and stories from the Pre-Production, Recording process at Monnow Valley Studios and the Mixing stage will be added to the blog later on in the year.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Work Experience & beyond! Adam Whalley @ Team Rock

In the summer of 2013, in between second and third year - my favourite DJ from the only major national rock radio station (planet rock) left, to join a new station that was forming, Team Rock. Upon initial listens to the test transmissions I could tell there were some issues with the sound - and I decided I’d send an email to the head of radio, a guy called Moose. I told him the issue, and then proceeded to get a bit of work experience largely on my basis of my great knowledge of broadcast audio (lie) and my expert skills in making cups of tea (bigger lie). He then enquired about my degree and asked about what I do and invited me in to meet them all, so expecting nothing but an insight into a radio station - I headed off to London and was met by Moose who proceeded to show me the little studios in the basement of a palatial building in London. I was then showed their spare audio studios, where they wanted to record sessions. They asked can I do it? Of course I said yes, and from there I was taken to the roof garden to discuss an equipment list that needed to be bought.

Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working for a growing company, and working in a great team of people who really think outside the box and try and do things differently. At Team Rock Radio, there are no adverts and that means we can play whatever we like, whenever we like and provide listeners with a variety that really hasn’t been seen in ‘commerical’ radio for a very long time! Since I joined the company, they’ve won awards and established a fan base which is ever growing - as well as syndicated some of the shows abroad meaning some of the sessions I produce are played in varying countries to potential audiences above 10 million! It’s something I’m massively proud to be a part of.

There is also the small matter of the artists I’ve been privileged enough to work with, and the list is ever growing, but headed by massive names such as Slash, Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi), Joe Bonamassa, Alter Bridge, Scott Stapp, Black Star Riders (the current carnation of Thin Lizzy), Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple) and many more. I’ve met other great artists, and really learnt that the music business isn’t such a scary place full of cut-throat and evil people - although that’s not to say I haven’t met a few unsavoury characters who I’d rather not meet again! I've learnt tonnes of new music, been to gigs and got albums that I never would of bought off my own back - and it's led to me getting some new favourite bands

From an audio point of view - I entered the job wanting to do it slightly differently. I didn’t want to constantly just chuck an SM58 on a voice and plug a guitar into a DI. We have such great equipment and potential in our studios here, I’ve tried to treat each session with a studio feel. Recording through great pre amps and converters into Pro Tools, and using professional and high end studio microphones to get that great sound! It’s great fun, and as a one man team I’ve had to learn and adapt extremely quickly, but It’s probably been some of the best experiences I’ve ever had! 

Yellow Fish Mobile Studio visit to Bucks: 24th October 2014

As part of the Induction Week activity within the Department of Media Production we will be visited by Yellow Fish (, who will bring their mobile recording studio for students to take a look around before taking part in a Q&A with the team that runs the facility.

The unit will park on the concourse at the High Wycombe campus from mid-morning on Wednesday 24th, with the Q&A in the event to follow in Gateway Lecture Theatre from 13.00. Anyone from Bucks would be very welcome to attend.
The unit has been used by many noteworthy performers, with recent clients including Chris De Burgh, Roger Daltrey, Wilko Johnson, The Strypes (UK album chart number 5, iTunes blues chart number 1), The Pretty Things and Brian Eno. The mobile also worked on the One Direction movie last year.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Recording Uriah Heep's 2014 album, Outsider + Jack Savoretti

Whats amazing for me now is being in the studio with some of these guys that have been doing this longer than I’ve been alive. Its amazing how much you can learn just from sitting on the sofa all day at the back of the room, just watching and listening. I’m still not great at playing it cool and sometimes I think I’m way too honest but the guys know this is my 1st gig and are very supportive of it. Producer Mike Paxman keeps giving me killer advice and its these words of wisdom that I think takes an aspiring engineer or producer to the next level. People like Mike can sum up situations you’ve taken a year to work out in just over a sentence. Things the books don’t really push across, even when its written down in front of you. You can be the best at Pro Tools or at using a particular analogue desk but if you can’t relate to the music or the project, it’s just not going to happen.

The gear is obviously top notch stuff with these guys. For bass, we run an Ampeg SVT-2 through a cab with an MD41 mic. The bass really sounds good, makes such a difference when you spend a lot of money on the back line, as oppose to just relying on a DI and some emulation software. 

Something thats surprising is the drum mics aren’t what I’m used to, thanks to Bucks Uni having a tremendous range of well known brands. We are using brands like Audix which I’ve never used before but heard great things about. It’s always refreshing when it still sounds great as originally I wasn’t sure what it would sound like. I think it all reverts back to that ‘recording chain’. It starts with the musicians and the instruments first of all and Russ is such a great great drummer that it almost doesn’t matter. 

I think overall, Neve 1066 and 1073 Preamps make a great difference. I’ve also hardly come across them before but had a quick practice with them recording a session for Jack Savoretti. You play with the EQ until it sounds good, boosting obviously. Once your used to it, if you bypass it, you suddenly make a horrible face and quickly switch it back on again. It's amazing the difference, you can put any mic anywhere with these Pre’s and I bet you wouldn’t be able to tell what mic it was.

Jack Savoretti's session was great fun. I hope it leads to other things, it might not but that doesn’t matter. Its amazing who is saying yes to me now compared to 1-2 years ago today. It’s not like a lot has changed, It doesn’t feel like I’ve got much better than when I was 23 just out of Uni but It’s just the names you can use in your emails to the management or record companies. It’s turning into a game for me now.

On another note, I’m surprised the difference Analogue summing has made to the overall sound. We are only using an old DDA desk or something I’ve never heard of before but, sending the drums down a stereo pair of faders and then everything else through the rest makes a big big big difference. Summing was never anything that came up at Uni, It doesn’t surprise me because not a lot of people feel the need to do it. Now though, I’m eyeing up Neve 5060’s when a few months ago I didn’t even know why anyone would bother. Interesting.

Congratulations to our 2014 graduates!

Graduation week for Bucks students was last week (8th – 12th) September. It was a time for caps and gowns; suits; impressively vertiginous heels; pomp and ceremony. But, above all, it was a time for celebration (with maybe a smidge of alcohol).
In addition to all our graduates receiving their well-earned degrees, a few were also awarded special prizes.
Firstly, receiving the “Best Sound Design Production” award from Sennheiser was Mark Rowles. Mark graduated from AMP with a First Class honours degree and received the award for his final year sound design work on a collaborative film called ‘Immerse’. The film was part of Mark’s Showreel, of which Mark said: "I worked with students from other courses at the University including Film and Television Production, Animation and Visual Effects, and Advertising: so it was a real team effort.”

Mark is currently working as a freelance location sound recordist but hopes ultimately to work in audio post-production for television and film.
Also awarded special prizes were Roy Bates and Ian Bonner. Both graduated on Tuesday with 2:1s in Audio and Music Production. They received the annual “Focusrite Prize for Best Music Production” for their work recording, mixing and mastering a two-track EP for Colourshop; a singer/songwriter music project created by brothers Alfredo and Diego Salvati, from London.
Roy is now working as an Audio Technician at Bucks and Ian is a trainee live audio technician and operator at Moonlite Productions in Southern Road, Aylesbury.
Roy, Ian and fellow graduate George Belben have also set up a music production company called Fiermente Productions. Its website is at Fiermente Productions has worked with artists including Telpha and Misha and his Merry Men. The team is about to work on Colourshop's next EP.
Other award recipients were Adam Whalley, who received the JAMES (Joint Audio Media Education Support) award for 2014 (read more about what Adam is up to now here), and Nick Lucas who was awarded the Richer Sounds award for his achievements in production and recording throughout his degree. 

Setting up for a Vocal Session with DJ Fresh

I don’t often get involved in studios, but from time to time, I’ll muscle in on a session. In this instance I had arranged to meet a friend and colleague for a few beers on the Cowley Road in Oxford. As is often the case, we couldn’t agree on a night that didn’t impinge on one or the others schedule, so we agreed to a few beers at his.

Dan (aka DJ Fresh) was planning a vocal session with Ella Eire for a track he’s been working on (probably the next single) and he had hired some extra equipment especially. He wanted to have a play with the gear to get some idea of what was what before Ella arrived the next morning.

The track consists of two main sections, the first utilizing mainly acoustic instruments; the second section drops a jungle style electronic break beat and bass line. Fresh was keen to achieve a vocal sound (or sounds) that would compliment the different sections of the arrangement but didn’t want to keep Ella hanging around during the session whilst he experimented.

Those familiar with Ella will know she has a very soulful voice and a style reminiscent of popular artists of the 40’s and 50’s. Dan’s idea was to try to accentuate this “vintage” style in the initial section of the track. To achieve this he hired and RCA Ribbon mic AEA A40 into a Neve 1073 pre-amp, then in a Teletronix La2A Leveling amplifier.

We set the mics up one on top of the other to get the capsules as close to each other as possible

We also wanted to simultaneously record the performance on his preferred mic choice – a Sony C800, again this tracked through a Neve 1073.

After much head scratching and chin stroking we agreed that setup above was the best way to record into both mics and set about having a look at the individual frequency responses on the Blue Cat Analyzer.

The first obstacle was achieving the correct amount of gain between the Neve and La2a. We struggled at first to get enough juice running through to the compressor but with a good bellow from the vocal booth and the Neve suitably cranked we started to see decent gain.

With all the meters starting hit where we wanted them for the RCA we plugged up the Sony, which came together comparatively quickly. The most notable immediate difference was in top end detail. The Sony drips in detail from around 12k up – exactly the point at which the RCA starts to lose it.

The second most notable difference was the amount of “hiss” from the RCA – Neve – Comp chain. This was obviously exacerbated as eq was added in the plug-in chain in the DAW.

We followed the frequency response closely but its times like these you realize you need to trust your ears. Using a test vocalist we ran the first part of the track. The mid- range character of the ribbon sat the vocal roughly but beautifully in the mix. The Sony sounding cold and hard in comparison – although that top end clarity contributed something.

I’m looking forward to hearing the results!!

Next Open Day: Saturday 11th October 2014

Saturday 11th October is our next Open Day at Bucks. Open Days are a great way to meet the course team here at Bucks, find out about our courses, and also explore our campus.

We're sure you'll be impressed by the state-of-the-art technical equipment we have in the brand new Gateway Building; the result of a £40m investment program completed just a couple of years ago, aimed at turning Bucks into a creative hub for media production of all kinds.