Studios & Recording
RECORDING studios in the heart of the country are nothing new, but every so often there's one that turns up slightly more than the average.
Ridge Farm is between Dorking and Horsham, is near Capel in Surrey, and consists of an amazing 16th century farmhouse and fully-soundproofed barn. Designed originally for rehearsal purposes, the studio now has deals lined up with various mobile recording units and is being used increasingly for record work, recent visitors including Steve Hillage, The Motors, Roy Harper and Tim Blake.
There can hardly be a better place for getting a good feel: the grounds extend over 12 acres, and with the swimming pool, sauna and tennis courts plus full rustic accommodation and three meals a day — what more could a creative artist require? Rates work out at about £40 plus £14 per day for full board, but these go down quite considerably if you're planning to be there for any length of time.
The place can be used 24 hours a day with no hassles, and particularly helpful people on hand to sort out any problems. To find out more, contact Frank Andrews at the address below.
Also lurking locally is brother Tony Andrews, designer of the most remarkable PA systems — particularly the pyramid-shaped bins — this side of the Crab Nebula. Ridge Farm offers good sounds all round.
Ridge Farm, (Contact Details).
Apart from the four-year Tonmeister course at Surrey University, Britain has little to offer in the way of courses on the various aspects of sound recording and production. But in the States the situation is much more favourable. Several colleges offer extensive courses on many aspects of sound recording, acoustic design and audio electronics.
The University of Sound Arts, (Contact Details) offers a complete six-week course for aspiring recording engineers and studio managers, including Engineering Theory, Recording Techniques workshops, Recording Studio Maintenance theory and practice, a Mixdown Workshop, Record Production Seminar, Disc Mastering Seminar, and a Studio Business and Management session. There is also a series of classes on Careers in the Music Industry included in the course. This (summer) session starts on July 10, so it's probably too late to apply this time round, but applicants should begin saving their $3060 now for a later session. There are also several shorter courses. Call them on (Contact Details).
The College for Recording Arts, (Contact Details), offers a number of courses including Audio Engineering (Basic, Intermediate and Advanced), a Recording Workshop, Music Production classes, Studio Electronics and Disc Mastering. The College also offers courses in music business, finance and law, and two courses on synthesisers. Most of the classes and all the recording work take place at the former studio of Golden State Recorders, Inc, which is very well equipped. The college is accredited by the National Association of Trade and Technical Schools.
The Golden West College offers a series of Commercial Music courses with five main options: Recording Arts (engineering and production), Commercial Performance, Composition and Arranging, Piano Teaching, and Retail Music. The College aims to teach all aspects of the business and in fact releases an album annually, produced by the students right down to the album cover artwork. Contact them at (Contact Details).
Not all such colleges are on the West Coast. The School of Sound, (Contact Details), offers an Audio Production Training Program, with the emphasis on the practical side.
It is impossible, of course, for a college to promise jobs in the industry on completion of the classes, accredited or not. But the employment records of these colleges, and of the Tonmeister course in Britain, are pretty respectable. Obviously a studio will be far more interested in employing someone who has had some experience and knows what they're up to. The only other way in to the recording industry is to start at the very bottom, as a van-driver or tape-op, and work your way up: a long and tedious, but eventually rewarding process. There are far more applicants than there are jobs, of course, so any kind of start is a good idea.
CATHEDRAL Sounds Ltd of Lancashire, England, have recently come up with two new signal-processing modules: a stereo graphic and a 4-channel complimiter. Cathedral have long been known as producers of low-cost quality limiters, but these two new products are likely to make a far bigger name for the company.
The CL4 quad complimiter is aimed deliberately at the 4-track studio, and offers four independent channels with full control of input and output levels, compression ratio and release time. Basic, but effective. The thing is available in a box or 19in rack-mounting version. Crosstalk is 'very low', although a figure is not given, but the box is designed to take several different programme inputs at once, so it must be pretty good. Inputs and outputs are jack sockets; input Z is 100K, whilst output impedance is less than 10 ohms, so it'll go into anything, almost.
The SGE20 (guess what that stands for) stereo graphic equaliser offers 10 bands per channel across the range 30-16K Hz. Calibrated linear pots with 60mm stroke are used, giving ±12dB per band. The machine features gyrators (a cunning way of making filters without bulky, ringing coils) and has a couple of overload LEDs which light up 2dB below clipping. The box has a -82dB noise level, and can provide anything between 14dB gain and no output at all. Ins and Outs are XLRs. It's simple to drive: just 10 sliders, a level knob and a bypass switch per channel, plus a mains on/off with indicator. Nice.
UK: Cathedral Sounds., (Contact Details).
IT is an undeniable, if unfortunate, fact that — in the UK at least — sound engineers are particularly badly paid. The average live mixing engineer hardly ever gets more than £35 a week, unless working with a top-class band, and in studios the situation is often even worse. A typical rate for tape-ops is still little more than £1 per hour, often with no overtime rate or compensation for 'unsociable hours'. Thus an assistant engineer may well have to work up to 80 or 90 hours a week to make ends meet after tax deductions. And studio engineers themselves are not too well off.
On the freelance engineering side the situation is particularly unstable. Increasing overheads have pushed up the hourly rates of many studios, with the result that many record companies — unwilling to increase their budgets and with a tendency to back well-established money-makers rather than new talent — now tend to employ house engineers rather than pay extra for a freelance recordist. So while a 'top' freelancer can command in excess of £12 an hour, many others are left out in the cold. And even those engineers who can command a respectable fee are in continual danger of being undercut by others who just do the odd album as a sideline, gaining the majority of their income from more regular employment.
The result of all this is that many engineers get a really bad deal from the industry. Many are being forced to find other jobs, a sad future for creative individuals.
So what is needed is a Sound Engineers Association to determine rates, conditions of work, and hold the engineering fraternity together; an association which would do for engineers what the MU should do for musicians. It would seem that the rate for musicians, £26 for a three-hour session, plus overtime, is a pretty fair one for engineers, with various weightings for other types of work besides ordinary tracks, eg radio commercials etc, where far more work is involved. One attempt to form such an association, the Guild of Sound Recording Engineers, seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth, no doubt due to its decision not to involve itself with anything concerned with pay or conditions.
We'd welcome comments on this idea from SI readers. Meanwhile, the ACTT (Association of Cinematographic and Television Technicians) is recruiting people in the music recording business, and it would be a good idea to join. Eventually, however, it seems sensible that sound engineers, both live and recording, should have their own association, as the film/TV side of the entertainment industry is so vastly different.
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