Tricks of the music tech trade

Genevieve Hudson U6 writes: Last week members of the A level music class were given the opportunity to learn a bit more about music technology. Simon Allen, a professional saxophonist and composer, visited the department to teach us what was required to successfully record and mix a piece of music. We chose to work on one of our own A-level compositions to experiment with sounds and instrumental backing. The piece was written for three unaccompanied voices, giving us a prime opportunity to surround the harmonies with other instruments and textures.

Through the recording process Mr Allen was able to explain the differences in microphones and which one is appropriate for a particular instrument or room. He also introduced us to the recording program ‘Cubase’ which would later act as our mixing and editing tool to alter our recorded track. We used a double bass to produce a steady bass line underneath the three-part harmony as well as piano, guitar and cymbals to add to the busy texture. Choosing saxophone also provided us with a rich descant over the parts and also allowed us to listen to a stunning performance from Mr Allen himself.

I particularly enjoyed the point during the sessions where we were able to mix the track which consisted of changing the levels of each individual instrument. Mr Allen explained how to alter the parts to create effects (such as echoes) and also how to create stereophonics, which separates the sound into a particular speaker. I found this particularly interesting because it allowed me to understand how effects are created in many songs that I’d heard within the electronic genre. The music technology sessions were really helpful in giving us an insight into what was a confusing process of creating and producing music and meant that we would be able to independently create our own tracks in the future.

Liv Wilson L6 writes: For two weeks in the autumn term, we were lucky enough to have Mr Simon Allen in school  to share his knowledge on music technology with those of us taking music at either GCSE or A-Level.

I count myself especially fortunate to have had five hours of one-to-one teaching on the workings of vital equipment. This insight covered microphones and which ones to choose, based on their recording qualities; setting up and rigging instruments with microphones (a drum kit needs more mics than you would have thought- 8 or 9 in fact!) and then, once it’s all set up, feeding the audio information into the editing software and mixing it together to create a finished track.

I had no idea of the attention to detail that is required for music production: it certainly isn’t a job for the faint-hearted. I have learned so much throughout the two weeks of lessons on the subject and now have a polished recording of an arrangement of my favourite musical song to show for it.