Improvising in the studio, arranging and recording

This week we contributed to two contrasting recording projects – one for some final year students at SAE in Oxford where the studio was absolutely state of the art and the particular studio we were in used a lot of analogue recording equipment including an old analogue valve mixing desk. The recording was part of an assignment for the students and their brief was to record 4 acoustic instruments on top of guitars / drums etc, with three tracks all in all. The session involved some music which was already scored and some which we were asked to improvise in order to fulfill the assignment brief.

On Monday we were asked for something totally different – working with a talented singer songwriting partnership who needed string quartet parts adding to some tracks which were almost finished. As I’d been asked to arrange the strings for two of the tracks, we’d been working together all week via email with small adjustments to get the strings sounding as close to the composers ideas as possible – this is a process which requires patience as often several revisions are needed before the song is ‘just right’. It’s always gratifying to get into the studio and finally record the parts – and after all the careful arranging work, we laid down the strings at the Dairy Studios in Brixton.  The session ran smoothly and we recorded three songs with very few ‘second takes’ needed. Although the majority of the music was scored for string quartet, there were a few bars where the sound needed to be thickened up with an extra violin or viola part, so I stayed on and carefully overdubbed a few phrases at the end to give a larger string section sound.