Last week saw us host our five-day electronic music production course, Summer School, at London School of Sound in Clapham. The final course in a busy summer of learning and inspiration, we welcomed ten more students eager to immerse themselves in the world of electronic music production with our esteemed expert Bruce Aisher as their guide.
Throughout the week, the students have explored every aspect of the production process, from the fundamentals of beat programming and synthesis through to vocal recording and production, and finally, the art of mixing and mastering. Alongside Bruce, sessions were taught by Reveal Sounds mastering engineer Neil Pickles, music lawyer Richard Salmon and one of London’s most recognised recording and mixing engineers, Jon Olliffe.
Things kicked off with an early introduction and a quick overview into modern electronic production and how it has changed over the years and getting students up to speed on the key tools being used throughout the week. Having set the ground work, the students then embarked on learning the fundamentals of creating a beat from scratch. From the understanding the importance of great source sounds to building the perfect kick drum through to groove and swing settings, the students learned the secrets behind killer beat programming. The session was rounded off with beat-specific mix techniques, using compression, EQ and reverb to take beats to the next level.
Later in the day, students turned their attention to their own tracks – either re-working a current project or starting a new one to complete by the end of the week. With Bruce on hand for one-on-one help, the students set about using their new beat skills in their own projects.
With beats nailed on day one, it was time to take on the other staple of electronic music: the bassline.
Bruce kicked things off with an in-depth lecture on all things bass, covering the different types, the frequencies, its relationship to the kick drum in the mix, how to create specific types of basslines using subtractive synthesis and how to get bigger, fatter basslines using advanced techniques such as parallel compression, sidechain compression and stereo widening.
This was followed with a series of specific walkthrough exercises to put into practice all the knowledge and techniques Bruce had covered. Once the skills were locked in it was time for students to continue building their own projects and by the end of day two they each had the foundations of a solid track.
Tuesday was rounded off with a guest lecturer from music and entertainment lawyer Richard Salmon, who was on-hand to give an insight into the legal side of the music business, giving students an understanding of record contracts, copyright law, royalty payments and much, much more.
With a fundamental elements covered it was time to tackle melody and musicality. With a focus on both synthesis and sampling as a source material, Bruce shared his career’s worth of insight into how the leading electronic dance producers build their melodies and what makes them stand out from the rest.
The afternoon session was run by one of London’s best and most recognised recording and mixing engineers, Jon Olliffe (Miss Dynamite, Nick Cave, Jamelia), who took the students into the live room for a session on live vocal recording. With the help of guest vocalist Lisa, the students were able put Jon’s words of wisdom and they mic’d up and recorded a vocal session to use in the demo track Bruce had been building all week.
As the students’ tracks neared completion it was time to think about arrangement and mix prepping. The students started the day listening to some example tracks, considering the impact structure and arrangement impacted on the final recording. Different mix approached were also dissected, specifically the differing considerings for club and radio mixes.
The afternoon was spent editing the previous day’s vocal recording, using techniques such as comping, re-tuning and double tracking alongside compression, EQ and reverb to get a polished vocal line that shone in the mix.
One of the highlights of the week was an inspirational critical listening session where the students had the opportunity to playback and listen to each other’s projects which they had been working on. There was a supportive and constructive atmosphere amongst the students and Bruce was able to give invaluable feedback to each student’s project.
On the final day the students we ready for the mixdown. Bruce broke down the different approaches to and theories of mixing, highlighting the key tools and techniques that can take a track from zero to hero. Armed with their new knowledge it was time for the students to complete their final mixes ready for mastering.
The evening session was an in-depth conversation and Q&A with Reveal Sound’s award-winning mastering engineer Neil Pickles, who discussed his approach to the often misunderstood art mastering. With a mix of before and after track demostrations, Neil was able to give real insight and understanding to the challenges and skills involved with mastering music for both digital and physical releases.
If you are interested in attending future editions of our Summer School register your interest here.