Manchester School Of Sound Recording
A course in recording provides a way of breaking out of the classic Catch 22 — you can't get studio work without experience, and can't get experience without work. Tim Hurrell reports on the Manchester School Of Sound Recording and what their 1-year course has to offer.
Go on, admit it — you're addicted. Music is worse than any drug. The habit starts young, it's impossible to give up, and you can't die from it — so it invariably lasts a lifetime. The worst of it is that at some stage you have to face the fact that you are not the next Elton John, Eric Clapton, or Kylie Minogue and, as the visions of 6-figure bank balances fade away you will be left with a most unpleasant choice: to either trudge the dreary road of 'the day job', paying the bills but stifling creativity, or take the less sensible route of throwing yourself head-first into music, thereby accepting that you will forego money, sleep, holidays, and any hope of hanging on to friends in any vaguely normal walk of life.
After rather foolishly choosing the latter option, life will deliver a second and equally unpleasant blow; the realisation that it is difficult to get work without experience, and very difficult to gain useful experience without working. Catch 22? Not necessarily. Armed with determination and a desire to learn, you could do worse than enrol on a course designed to teach you how to record, engineer, program, and even listen, all whilst having a good time and mixing with similarly-minded people. In our June issue we looked at the whole subject of training and education, and this month we'll look a little more closely at an establishment that offers just such a course — the School Of Sound Recording, located in a studio complex hidden in the centre of Manchester.
Established in 1984, the school maintains its original intention of providing quality training for the audio industry at an affordable price (£30 per week, although funding may be available for the unemployed). The main course on offer, the One-year Certificate Level Course, lasts for 50 weeks, and is split into five modules each lasting 10 weeks. Assuming no knowledge at the outset, the modules run concurrently with practical 'hands on' time, and cover every aspect of sound engineering, from producing dance tracks, miking live theatrical performances, and studying digital theory, through to understanding the complex workings of the human ear.
The practical elements of the course are developed and examined under as much scrutiny as the theoretical content. These practical elements include 4, 8 and 16-track recording projects, a MIDI jingle/sampling project, and a studio design project which must include a full business plan detailing all the information needed to establish and run a commercial studio. After covering all of the topics thoroughly in the curriculum, the school demands an overall pass mark of over 70%, ensuring its students graduate with as much knowledge as possible.
Having painted this grim picture of hard work, it should also be noted that guest lectures are given by representatives of Island Records, Roland, Amek, Ampex, and various session musicians, thus giving an insight into the everyday workings of the music business and maintaining the school's link with the industry. Liaising with various studios has resulted in ongoing work placements for students attending the school. At present, Manchester's Square One Studios are accepting work experience placements. Square One, equipped with an Amek desk and Otari multitrack, has recorded albums for the likes of James and The Christians, and provides invaluable expertise for the determined student.
As well as offering 'hands on' training with local studios, the school is often quick to hear of any vacancies as they arise either locally or nationally; many companies actually approach the school when seeking new employees, as they appreciate the standard of training.
Although the school can obviously not guarantee that students will find employment on completing the course, many graduates have gone on to work with companies such as the BBC, Lyrec, and Amek, and one ex-student is currently handling sound installations at EuroDisney. On average 68% of students find a job in the industry. Among the musical credits attributed to the school are 808 State, Oceanic, K-Klass, 2 For Joy, Simply Red, and Candy Flip, all of whom have ex-students as members or producers.
After a recent refurbishment and change of management, the studios have expanded considerably, now housing 4, 8 and 16-track studios, two MIDI production suites, an in-house record company, and a new 24-track commercial studio under the name Eleventh Hour Recording. Eleventh Hour is equipped to fully professional standards, featuring an Amek Einstein fully automated desk, 2-inch multitrack, and the full complement of outboard equipment.
The school takes on a maximum of 50 students every term, ensuring that everyone gets enough practical time, and there are two terms per year. The next intake will start in early September.
The Manchester School Of Sound Recording, (Contact Details).
Feature by Tim Hurrell
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