Session Diary – 2014

The “very successful” Gus Dudgeon Foundation (GDF)/Joint Audio Media Education Support (JAMES) postgraduate summer course concluded in style on 19 July, with the nine students, under the tutelage of Romesh Dodangoda (pictured), producing a track for up-and-coming Welsh rock group Caesars Rome. “It was an honour to be asked to lead this year’s Gus Dudgeon summer course, and it was a pleasure to share my experiences with the very talented students,” comments Dadangoda. “I was very impressed with the high standards of everyone in the class, and also their interest in learning as much as they could from each day of the course.

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Congratulations Zoe Vernon - Winner of the Student of the Week Prize

Congratulations Zoe Vernon – Winner of the Student of the Week Prize (Studio Projects CS1 Microphone with a Studio Projects SPMS Mic Stand, a Studio Projects SPC-203X Litz Mic Cable, and a Studio Projects SPMPF metal Pop Filter – kindly donated by: PMI Audio plus a FULL SET of SSL Plug-ins – kindly donated by: Sonic State Logic

http://www.pmiaudio.com

http://www.solid-state-logic.com

STUDENT AND BAND FEEDBACK

I have really enjoyed my week at “The Atrium” in Cardiff. It was a pleasure to work on such an iconic desk with such a well known, successful producer. I really enjoyed getting to know all the other students and was overwhelmed by how well we all got on as a group. To watch Romesh at work was an honour. In some areas it confirmed some of the techniques I already use and in other areas completely altered the way I would approach a session in the future. Romesh was very informative and related to the group really well. He made us feel valued and offered sound advice throughout the week. Dan kept all our spirits high with his humour and willingness to direct us through Pro tools. I really enjoyed the social aspect of the week. There was great food, great company and it was a pleasure to be around people with similar interests. I felt the week was really well planned and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in this area of music.

John Kirby

I learnt so much during my week on the Gus Dudgeon summer course. It was great to witness a professional production starting from scratch, through to a final mix. So many areas were highlighted that you would never think to ask, don’t find in books or in lectures and can only really be grasped from shadowing an experienced producer like Romesh.

He was great to work with, as was Dan the engineer, the band and everyone else on the course. I look forward to staying in touch with everyone I met, and would like to thank John Ward my lecturer at Anglia Ruskin for allowing me this opportunity.

Jared Lucas

Having just returned to Scotland after spending a week in Cardiff for the Gus Dudgeon summer course, I must say that it truly has been an honour being a part of the 2014 cohort alongside some of the best students from around the UK. Not many people get the opportunity to observe a successful record producer and mixing engineer at work, from this experience I have learned numerous techniques and ideas that will improve my own work flow. Personally, this trip has given me more confidence in my own abilities to reach a higher standard of efficiency and professionalism across all relevant areas within sound production and my career in general. This opportunity is something that I’m glad to say was a valuable experience and can only serve to enhance the qualities of each student in various ways, hopefully the Gus Dudgeon summer course will continue to run in the coming years and offer students the chance to improve their skill set and meet new people.

Mark Sinclair

The Gus Dudgeon summer course was as enjoyable as it was insightful, and I’m truly grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of such a great experience. I have come away from the week with a much stronger sense of the industry standard of record production, what expectations future employers are likely to have of me and how best I can apply myself to be successful in a working studio environment. Many thanks to Romesh, Dan and all the great people at the Gus Dudgeon Foundation and JAMES who made this week happen, it’s really made all the difference and I’ll always remember it 🙂

Joel Blackburn

The entire week was exciting. Just being able to get stuck in and try new techniques, with the opportunity to air our own ideas as well and get feedback from Romesh based on his experiences was fantastic. Learning different, subtle ways to improve both the recording and mix processes, such as layering guitar cabs and adding different textures in the bass parts to give more texture. We were also given the opportunity to practise different editing techniques and work with Romesh to control the Pro Tools session. The complexity in which the vocals were tracked in order to make them stand out more whilst not becoming a chorus was incredible. I’d never have even thought to layer so many different parts to create the final vocal harmonies so it really opened my eyes.

I can’t stress enough what a fantastic week I’ve been fortunate to have with an incredibly talented bunch of people. I’ve learned so much over the week and am so grateful for the opportunity to learn from both Romesh and Dan. It has really opened my eyes to the ways in which a professional studio is run and I want to thank Romesh for both being so willing to share some of his secrets with us over the week and awarding me student of the week. I feel very honoured and inspired to keep pushing forwards and I can’t thank everyone involved in the organisation of the week, Romesh, Dan and the sponsors enough.

Zoe Vernon

This year’s Gus Dudgeon summer course has been fantastic!

I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to be apart of it, learning and working alongside Romesh Dodangoda; a producer that has perfected his craft.

Not only has he had success in previous years, but continues to produce big artists today. Each tip and trick he gave away felt invaluable for my future progression in the industry, and not a lot of students can say that they’ve had a similar privilege.

Working with such a great group of students throughout the week was also great, and I felt that we all helped each other to ensure we had the most out of the experience. We have agreed to keep in touch, and will hopefully have a chance to work with each other again in the near future.

A bonus for myself was that I was awarded a one week session with Romesh at his own studio, Long Wave Studios. I very much look forward to learning more, and working with him in a professional environment.

Robin Llwyd Jones

I had a good time, and I believe the facilities and band were fantastic, however I feel it may have been a better and more natural learning environment had Romesh not worked with the band and recorded the song before hand – as I think we really lacked any experience of finding the initial sound and the intimate discussions with the band seeing as they had clearly done it all before and were almost pre prepared to just come in, play and leave! That’s no reflection on the band as they were amazing, and brilliant guys – but I feel it lacked the realistic feel of a session where you have to explore different techniques the find the right sound.

Adam Whalley

CEASARS ROME

BAND FEEDBACK

Truly a fantastic session with such professionalism from the students. It was a great experience to see them watch and involve themselves in the process of recording our song with Romesh. Not to mention that by the end of it, we were all head banging!

Kyle Smith

Guitarist and Backing Vocals

Thoroughly enjoyable week observing how thorough the recording experience was. The students were all very helpful and friendly, making the whole experience a smooth process.

Jonathan Hopkins

Lead vocals and Guitar

 

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Day 1 – 14th July 2014

The 2014 GDF student cohort arrived bright and early at the Atrium, to be greeted by resident engineer Dan Turner and this year’s guest producer, Romesh Dodangoda.

Romesh’s presence at the 2014 GDF summer course marked the introduction of a different style of recording scenario to years previous. Romesh is renowned in the industry for his modern and distinctive production style, within the Rock/Pop and Metal music genres. This year’s students were all delighted to be given the opportunity to see how this style of production is done in the professional world, and to learn some of the techniques and tricks that Romesh employs as an expert of his field.

Romesh had invited along Cardiff based Post-Hardcore Band, ‘Caesar’s Rome’ to be our recording client’s for the week. Romesh’s previous working relationship with the band created a relaxed atmosphere and allowed the students to witness a close producer/band interaction from the outset. The task for the week was to record, produce and mix a single track from Caesar’s Rome’s latest album, providing students with the unique chance to dissect the production process of the track in intimate detail.

After an enlightening discussion with Romesh regarding his career history, his current working life and a short briefing on the task for the day, the group was put to work, setting up for a full live band demo recording. Romesh explained the importance of creating a demo recording for the purposes of a guide track, as a means of getting a feel for how the track should sound whilst simultaneously obtaining a guide track that has live performance nuances, as a result of the band playing in the room together.

The miking process began with Drums. Aside from the microphone choice and placement, Romesh emphasised the importance of the placement of the kit in the room, to achieve the ideal sound. The drums were positioned in the corner of the room to accentuate the low end, in order to achieve the heavy drum sound associated with Post-Hardcore music.

Aside from a variety of spot mics and overhead’s, the most crucial aspect of Romesh’s drum miking approach was the placement of his room microphones to capture the deepest possible kit sound. Romesh got the class to follow him around the room as he listened out for dead spots, and points where the drums sounded deepest. The students found the effects to be truly dramatic and everyone agreed that this was a particularly useful part of the session. Romesh’s use of the room in his drum sound continued outside of live room. Romesh placed a Royer 121 in the corridor outside of the room, where the dark tonality of the microphone allowed Romesh to bring the room sound to a high volume, without washing the drum sound out with cymbals.

As the faders were brought up on Gus’s MCI console, the drums already sounded massive. Romesh then showed the class some of his compression techniques on the room mics, using the Empirical Labs Distressor and Fatso Compressors, which glued the drum mix together and gave the kit some serious punch.

After a short break, the band jumped in to the live room and got straight on with the recording of the guide track. Even with a basic provisional mic set up on the guitar amps, and a direct bass guitar signal via the SansAmp, the production quality was of an impressive standard, not to mention an excellent performance from Caesar’s Rome which got everyone’s head nodding along with approval and the whole class left the Atrium smiling with anticipation for the rest of the week.

Joel Blackburn


It was a really good first day – have learned lots already, it’s interesting to see how both Romesh and Dan approach things in different ways – there is no set way to do things and its encouraging! Band are already sounding amazing and are a fantastic bunch.

Thanks

Zoe Vernon


Day 1 was great!  Tracking drums which included analysing drum mic placements, and thinking about drum EQ and Compression pre-tape stage; with a large focus on room mics. Romesh also highlighted the importance of pre-production as he mentioned that he often rehearses each fill with the drummer!
Minor problems included some changes in mic position (such as floor tom mic pointing away from ride to reduce spill), mic choice (such as 451s for OHs instead of Geffels, as Romesh wanted to achieve a brighter sounding close kit).
Other problems were foldback signal issues which were quickly fixed.
Robin Llwyd Jones

Day two down! Drum edits pretty much done and bass tracked!….dig the API stuff! Cheers sponsors!

Charlie Middlecott


Day 2 involved drum editing and processing, and recording bass guitar.  Here we made good use of beat detective and had the opportunity to do some tasks independently, such as tidying up the tom tracks.
We were also asked to run the session when recording bass, putting our protools skills to the test. Here, Romesh decided to mix the bass DI signal with another feed sent to a Marshall amp, which gave a much more ‘real’ tone to the bass.

Robin Llwyd Jones


Day 3 was guitar layering, and there was a lot of it! 

The session started off with the rhythm guitar parts, all of which were sent through a MESA amp into two separate cabs; both recorded with two mics, sent through SSL EQ and then bussed to a stereo track. These were later double tracked and panned either side of the stereo image.
Choruses were then layered once more using the Orange amp to add low-mid body to these sections. Romesh insisted on keeping track of the level settings of the amp mics, incase he wanted to come back to a certain sound. (As seen above)
We later separated into groups; one sample replacing snare hits on drum tracks with Dan, the other assisting Romesh on lead guitar recording. Here, he used his Kemper profiling amp to recreate clean Vox AC30 delay parts for the riff and mid8 sections. These parts were also double tracked, but also included an central octave part to emphasise the melody.
For the outro section, good use was made of the feedback and delay settings on the guitar pedal, to create an ambient, dramatic sonic experience.
Robin Llwyd Jones

Day 4 and all the tracking is done! Today we worked on all the vocal tracks, using Romesh’s precious Flea C12 mic which was sent to an api pre, into the distressor.
For this, a decision was made to use two pop-shield, to enable the vocalist to come as close as possible to the mic, without any wind pops affecting the take.
We all made a ‘take table’ for the song to keep track of which takes were the best, which sped up the comp editing substantially. Romesh also highlighted the importance of tuning the vocal takes before doing any double tracking, ensuring  the vocalist performs in the correct pitch.
Once all the tuning and comping was done, we made sure all the tracks were neatly edited and consolidated, ready to begin mixing tomorrow morning. Can’t wait to see Romesh doing what he does best!
Robin Llwyd Jones

Final day with Romesh today, and the best day of the course in my view; the mix stage. 
A big screen was set up so that we could all see exactly what Romesh was doing as he mixed ‘in the box’.
We all had the privilege of seeing, and more importantly hearing how all the hard work that we’d put in was slowly coming together to form the final mix. Here, he shared fantastic tips and tricks that he often utilises in his work to achieve his trademark sound, and made good use of plug-ins such as the C4 multi-band compressor, the Doubler and the MonoMod; creating interesting soundscapes.Hearing the track for the final time as the final product, with all of the other students made a very enjoyable week even more worthwhile. Finishing off where we all met on the first day for a celebratory drink was also nice. A perfect end to a fantastic course!

Robin Llwyd Jones

 


 

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