Last week, Falmouth University invited representatives from Island Records to the campus. They in turn kindly provided representatives for a songwriting, and production masterclass. I was privileged to be selected for the production masterclass with Joe Kearns; known for his mixing, engineering, and production with artists such as; Ellie Golding, Florence and the Machine, and Emile Sandé, as well as being part of the production team on film scores from: Kickass, The Hunger Games, and Gravity.

Although the pop side of his production is a far throw from traditional film scoring, there was definite aspects of his techniques that I could apply to my own practice- whether literally or in theory. I particularly enjoyed his concept of ‘ear candy’, where he added an small impact or underscore loop element to his composition, that would take part of the focus off the main melody of the song, adding textual interest.

Part of the session involved Joe delving into some of my peer’s tracks, and editing appropriately to improve the overall aesthetics of the music. The sheer speed of his work process was astonishing, and some of his cheats (which I certainly won’t be giving away!) were incredibly simple, but very affective.

My favourite moment in the day was when Joe took us into his project that had a more classical context, which happened to be the introductory track to Ellie Golding’s last album Delirium. Joe explained how he resample the vocal element of the track from a previous work with Golding that wasn’t used (and dredged it in mounds of reverb- which sold me straight away). It’s inspired me to delve into old projects and re-cycle unused material.

On the same track, we looked in detail at the string session recorded at Abbey Road Studios. The amount of detail in the recordings and the microphones used sounded phenomenal, but this was unsurprising given the prestige of the venue. Interestingly, Joe layered the legato strings lines with percussive and random bow taps, that he advised the ensemble to play. The dry sound of this wasn’t particularly great, but when large amounts of reverb was added, along with volume adjustments, this texture added a unique detail that is felt rather than heard.

That particular aspect of feel over hearing a particular instrument perfectly summed up the day for me, and I am grateful that Joe decided to travel all the way from London to kindly share his knowledge with me and my fellow peers.

Posted by:Angus Roberts-Carey

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