Gaby Kapps – Pianist & Composer


Gaby Kapps (Maria Gabrielle Cappelletti) writes a lovely opening description on her Soundcloud page:

“Hi there. Music is my passion, my link to breathing. It has pulled me out of some very tight situations and given me meaning and freedom from our grey reality. It sustains and nourishes my soul. I crave for music all of the time. I love teaching it, love singing it, love playing it. I love to compose, to write songs. All the rest you can discover in my creations.” 

As Gaby says, after listening to her passionate music, you will discover a lot about Gaby.

Gaby has a website that let’s you explore her music, videos and news. It’s well worth the visit.

When asked about her inspiration, Gaby replied:

“I am inspired by multiple factors, not just one or two. I consider myself something of a visionary, therefore ideas and imagination make a great impression on my mindset. I am highly inspired by the dynamics of nature for example, waves ,wind or light. I am also awestruck by the universe, which often provides me with ideas for inspiration. But I also follow my emotions, and through improvisation on the piano, I give life to those emotions, finding the best way to channel what I feel. Being very vocally driven, I often invent melodies in my mind, and try to set them to scores. “

Gaby shared her thoughts on musical influences:

“I do not have any main influences, because I have drawn lessons from all composers and all eras of music. I firmly believe that every composer has something to share with me, a particularly beautiful moment in his/her creations which have touched me and taught me something.” 

But Gaby does concede she also draws influence from literature, poetry and visual art.

Gaby has received airplay on WRPB 103.3 FM Classical Discoveries by Marvin Rosen, Clasica Sin Etiqueta (Argentina) and Melbourne Classical Radio (Australia).

When quizzed on the importance of improvisation, Gaby answered:

“I think any composer improvises. The instinctive invention of new music is manifested through this means, where musical thought is automatically transmitted to the keyboard or any other instrument. It is also an extremely physical act, the body as the interface between the creative thrust and the musical instrument. I know that I often sit myself at the piano and try to see what comes of what I play.” 

Some of Gaby’s music is available in sheet music form. A number of her compositions have been published through Donemus Publishing Company of Holland. Here is the link:

Summing up Gaby’s thoughts on her music:

“I can only add that my wish is that people listen to my music willingly, because they truly appreciate it. Music is art, a beautiful element in our lives and it is there to make our daily lives a better place to be.”

The 2 songs featured on the Soundcloud Top 20 solo piano playlist are:

Brano 01 A BRIEF NOCTURNE(2) for piano solo 

This piece has a constant left hand arpeggio, that sets a somewhat dark mood, but with constant shifting right hand chords and melody, evokes some optimism and lyrical movement. Really well performed!


Lovely ¾ waltz time, that has light, airy sections that descend into darker contrasts here and there. Lovely interplay between the two chapters. Lovely strength leading into the softest of touches. This is a great tune to sample Gaby’s talent.

Gaby’s own thoughts on these tunes are:

“I think a piece of music ought to stand on its own feet and communicate what the composer has conceived. But I cannot but repeat what I said regarding my inspirations. I am moved by nature, poetry, literature and even science. My pieces are reflections of all this. They are an extension of who I am and what impassions me. What I love. “

To listen to the complete Soundcloud Top 20 Piano Solo Playlist, click the link below:

Marcel Zidani Pianist & Composer

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Marcel Zidani is a pianist and composer, who resides in the UK. Through the marvels of our interconnected world, Marcel has been able to have his music spread across the whole planet via streaming services such as Soundcloud.

Questioning him on his inspiration for composing, Marcel answered:

“Inspiration for me really comes from within, a lifetimes worth of experiences or stories can be told through music. Hearing or seeing something beautiful or feeling someones pain or injustice can spark my creativity though never through anger but through empathy and understanding.”

As far as his main influences and composers that have made an impact on him, Marcel replied:

“I have heard so much music over the years that I suppose I have a varied pool of influences from Keith Jarrett – Beethoven – Bach – Chopin, to modern but tonal music. I have a particular affection for Spanish music and have written many pieces particularly chamber works with a flavour of this style.”

Marcel’s work has been featured on UK airwaves. BBC Radio 3 described Marcel as a ‘Musical Gem’ and after his performance of ‘Butterflies’ Katie Derham proclaimed ‘what a beautiful piece’. Marcel’s performances are often heard on other BBC radio stations throughout the UK, including BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester, Radio Bristol, Somerset, Wiltshire, Shrewsbury and more. Apart from his radio airplay, Marcel has performed extensively at music festivals in the UK, as well as giving concerts locally and in the Midlands. In May 2018 Marcel performed and recorded live at Hay festival in conjunction with BBC Hereford and Worcester. Andrew Marston of Radio Hereford and Worcester said ‘Outstanding, complex and beautiful – simply put, the most incredible piano player I’ve ever seen’. You can listen to his recordings of Rachmaninov, Godowsky/Chopin and much more on his YouTube



When I quizzed Marcel on the importance of improvisation, his answer was as flowing as his playing style:
‘Improvisation is a hugely important skill, it allows the composer to freely explore ideas and can often solve problems such as writers block. Improvising around themes and ideas will often steer me back on track and help to get the writing juices flowing again. I believe that improvising is important for all musicians so that if current repertoire is not in memory or at hand, then you can still go to your instrument and make music.’

Marcel’s composition, The People’s Song, combines the sublime piano playing he is known for, but also adds the extra layer of electronica and ambient backing. Here’s how Marcel describes it:
“This was originally a solo piano piece with the idea that the local community or anybody could compose a melody over the accompaniment. I decided to develop the idea myself though and added guitars, percussion and electronic instruments to create an atmospheric and uplifting feel.”

Broken Wing, another of Marcel’s pieces, provides us with rolling piano lines that gradually build as the tune progresses and break into some incredibly dynamic playing. Asked for his own thoughts on this track, Marcel mused:
“Broken Wing, forms the 2nd movement of my composition ‘The Butterfly Suite’. The last movement, ‘Butterflies’ was composed first and was nominated by Leslie Howard for the British Composer Awards. It took one day to complete and was one of those days where inspiration just took over, Broken Wing the 2nd movement, however, took much longer, has a more melancholy feel but still has the butterfly effect that is used in ‘Butterflies’. The first movement Chrysalis, written last, the biggest and most challenging to play, took around 2 years to complete.
If any of you are interested in the sheet music for these pieces, Marcel informed me that:
“Butterflies and Broken Wing are currently for sale, Chrysalis will be at some point in the future.”

Rounding out this expose, Marcel is also the author of ‘Hey Presto’ a unique and fully comprehensive, piano method for 11+ and adults, that focuses on the use of the sustain pedal to achieve a rewarding sound straight away.
The method book imparts the importance of good pedagogy including the teaching of techniques such as legato, wrist/forearm rotation, circular motion, flexibility, sustain pedal and much more. Hey Presto! is recommended by ABRSM consultant Andrew Eales, EPTA and featured in Piano Professional Magazine. In June 2017 Marcel won 2nd prize in the European Piano Teachers Composer Competition for the performance of his composition – ‘The Clock’ and in 2015 the famous pianist Leslie Howard nominated Marcel’s composition ‘Butterflies’ for the British Composer Awards, describing it as, ‘an excellent piece, beautifully written for the piano’. ‘The Clock’ is featured in the November 2017 edition of BBC Music Magazine.

To find out more about this outstanding composer and performer, take a look at this website for information.


Marcel’s music is also included on this wonderful playlist of the top 20 pianists on Soundcloud. Enjoy the amazing music, compiled by artists from all over the world.

Freelance Projects


This trimester has seen my freelance work ramp up to a new high. Considering I completed thirteen, large scale, outward facing projects last trimester, I didn’t think topping that was even possible!

The eight film soundtrack projects I finished this trimester,  included Screamin’ Demons, The Night, The Family Business Documentary , Tanahai Documentary, Mistaken Identity, Lemonaid (the spelling was a play on the movie’s theme), My Soul The Sky To Keep, Arak Documentary and Push Back. For two of these movies, I also helped with the mixing and foley recording.

For animation students, I completed five projects including Si(gh)lent Disco, Rooftop Rave Party, Team Forest, Laundromatica & Meme Virtual Reality. Each of these required lot’s of drafts & revisions to finally arrive at the desired outcome. Some involved composing music and soundscapes with just an abstract brief. Some I didn’t even see the final animation until just before exhibition. I did have extensive input from the lecturer, Phil Wilkinson, to express his wishes and then reflect on the updates I provided.

These projects would have obviously been better if we had more time, but considering the constraints, I believe I have met the “Success Factors” of the Freelancer Brief.

1. The client is happy with the result of my work.

2. Professional quality work was produced.

3. Project was scoped and implemented successfully.

Freelancing is one of the major planks of my time at SAE institute. Within the first two weeks of me attending college, I gave a talk at “Pitch Night”, to advertise my skills in the world of soundtrack composing and as a session musician. When I meet students from other disciplines, I am constantly spruiking my wares. Because of my background in building a business from the ground up, I know from harsh experience, that if you don’t hustle, you can’t eat! Not only do I have musical skills to offer, but I also pride myself on reliability and constant communication throughout any project I undertake. With this ethos in mind, it seems a given, that I would find lot’s of freelance work within and outside the college.

Unfortunately, I need to boil down my projects to just three. So here are what I consider to be some of my favourites:

Screamin’ Demons

This film was one of the best student films I have ever seen. Even for professionals, comedy, is not an easy genre to get right, but the  director, Andrew Ayres, really nailed it on this one. I was supposed to compose this in collaboration with Rob Greenwell, but due to unforseen circumstances, he was missing from key meetings with the director and audio supervisor. This meant I needed to forge on regardless and submit music drafts and revisions until Rob could see his way fit to rejoin the project. I began this movie last trimester and sent an early draft of the theme music, which the director loved. This gave me a false sense of security about our future dealings, but at that point, we had a toehold into the project. The first rough draft then gave me a chance to write some more scene specific music. At the next meeting, my love scene in the ute cabin and end scene music were approved. Rob finally came back on board and we showed Tristan, Andrew and Sean, Rob’s ideas on the exorcism scenes and other parts of the movie. Because we had been incorrectly briefed, both mine and Rob’s music for these parts of the movie were rejected. With the deadline looming, they accepted an idea I had for the demon’s entering their bodies. We both worked on the exorcism scenes and once again, because Rob was missing from the last meeting with the director, I wrote the first excorcism scene and shared the writing credits with Rob on the second scene. The final showing on exhibition night was a real standout and I believe turned out to be the crowd favourite. This certainly taught me about the back and forth between directors and creatives, which sometimes boils down to film people not knowing how to express their musical wishes.


Team Forest

This forty second animation was challenging, because I didn’t see the “wire frame” roughs until very late in the project. The one thing Adam Holland (animation group leader) had going for him, was the very detailed audio brief. This allowed me to amass the sound effects and foley before I had even seen a second of footage. Once the roughs could be viewed, I then was able to align the sound with the visuals and also to compose a light, airy composition in the background. Having only seen the wire frame model animations, during my production of this clip, it was a delight to see the professional final rendered project. Initial drafts and revisions were commented on until I got the desired result. Not only did the group thank me at the end, but I was very touched to have the animation teacher also express their delight with the finished product.


SAE Access all areas (podcast series)

One thing I really enjoyed about last trimester, was making a podcast series on “Music in films”. Everything, from the script preparation, recording, editing, sourcing sound effects and composing music for the theme and background, was a delight!! I had approached Tristan Meredith this trimester, about recording a podcast about student life at SAE, but to my surprise, David Turner asked, via email, for volunteers to record and produce a series based around guest speakers coming to the college. I jumped at the chance and have enjoyed every minute of these episodes. The great spin off for me, is picking up my speed at shortcuts, due to the heavy editing required, to turn two hours of speaking, to a half hour package. It also allows me to become more proficient at removing hiss and rumble. Honing my onsite recording chops, is also a side benefit as well. The link above, is to the first episode (which will be released early next year). The next two episodes have also been edited, but require the lead in, voice over work, by David Turner, so these will be completed first off in the new year.


I’m hoping to keep the freelance component of my studies, at a high level in the future, so that I not only have “real world” projects, but that my work flow and production techniques improve with my full calendar.

Feel like I feel – Combining the elements


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Gradually the original song “Feel like I feel”, is taking shape.

This week included the tracking of bass guitar and female backing vocals.


The bass player, Luke Eberbach, is an extremely talented musician and after listening to both my original demo and the “Original Sin” INXS hit, he came up with his interpretation of how Nile Rodgers and Gary Beers, would have played this important part of the song. He brought in a bright sounding bass, from his huge collection of instruments and also racks of pre amps, for us to achieve that classic Nile Rodgers bass sound. I tracked multiple playlists and then used this week to comp them altogether.

Charlotte_Recording_2 - Copy

On the weekend, I recorded Charlotte Barker, as my female back up vocal trio. Using multiple overdubs, I am attempting to create the sound of backing vocals similar to Nile Rodgers approach. We tried various options on the lyrics, to coax out a call and response section in the song and then the obligatory huge chorus, reinforcing it’s dominance within the song structure.

After tightening up the drums and aligning to the grid, the bass layer is now adding amazing power to this track. It’s very satisfying to hear an original song rise up from a piano demo, to a full blown song, using amazing, talented musicians. This is truly a fun experience.

Nile Rodgers Time Sheet 3

Feel what I feel – The making of a song

Drum Recording 1

Now that the song demo is completed and the lyrics all written, I have named the song “Feel like I feel”. The musicians to complete the project are Graeme Patterson on drums, Luke Eberbach on bass, Simon Harrison on guitar, Charlotte Barker on backing vocals and I will handle the keyboards.

The first musician to come in for tracking, was the drummer. To obtain that huge drum sound I’m after, I recorded in the soundstage, using the Rednet interfaces and Avid S6 desk upstairs, as the control room. Thanks to Tristan Meredith, our post production lecturer, we learnt how to record drums in the huge open space and the results were amazing and so full of life and energy. I used a huge array of microphones for this session and set up a Decca Tree microphone arrangement 3mts in front of the kick drum and over 6mts wide, to capture the spaciousness of the live room. I encouraged the drummer to play quite hard and expressive. David Turner has given me the tip of using these huge sounding roomy drums,  but then edit them with triggered sound sources for the kick and snare and then reduce the tails on the delay, to obtain that classic, gated 1980s drums sound . David suggested non linear reverb.

Quite a few hours have been used comping and editing the drums using Beat Detective. Thanks to the tutorial by Luxe, in our studio class, the task was not as time heavy as it would have been without his tips. Dave Turner, our lecturer, noted timing issues in my edited drum tracks & this then required me to spend the bulk of my class studio time, aligning the rhythm to the grid. As I had already mentioned, in Nile Rodgers tracks, the drums & bass are the bedrock of his songs and therefore, it stands to reason, then needed to be absolutely “on point”. The other adjustment, due to class feedback, was my original intro and first verse, did not hit the ground running and had a classic production style, that built from verse to verse and needed changing. This was not the way Nile Rodgers approached his music. Because his background was in disco and dance music, he caught the listener from the very “get go” and introduced the heavy, catchy beat and bass pattern from the first few bars of his songs. this made it easy to cross over from Top 40 hits, directly to the dance clubs. I subsequently rewrote my intro to reflect this advice.

12Strings guitar

The next musician to come in to the studio, was Simon Harrison. I have used this guy on many sessions, as he is such an amazing versatile player. My brief to him, was to channel a funky sounding, thin guitar sound, that referenced both INXS and Nile Rodgers. Simon achieved this in spades, and improvised on the theme with a huge amount of usable takes. Unfortunately I had to narrow it down to just one final track, but I was extremely pleased with the outcome.

Santi   Drum Recording S6

My next musician to record, was Santi Caballero. This guy is an absolute “gun” on the saxaphone. Over the years, I have recorded many great tunes with him & his professionalism and musicianship, is second to none. He channeled Kirk Pengilly (the original INXS saxophonist) to an absolute “T”.

The track is now really coming together and I am looking forward to the bass player coming later this week and rounding out the rhythm section.

Nile Rodgers Time Sheet 2


Song Exploder – Preparation



To begin my Song Exploder assignment, I needed to write a song that paid homage to INXS’s single, “Original sin”, produced by Nile Rodgers. To understand the context, I listened to the 1983 song quite a few times and noted the important parts within it. Not only the things that gave it the distinct INXS sound, but also the parts that were influenced by Nile’s production techniques.

Piano in Studio 3

Having compiled quite a few written notes, I then used my class time, on the acoustic piano, to begin roughing out an original song. Making sure the song was in my vocal range, I then proceeded to flesh out verse, chorus, intro, outro and bridge section. This took quite a few hours of testing and trialing ideas. Once I was reasonably happy with the rough layout, I started writing lyrics. This is the way I usually write songs, beginning with music and then bringing the lyrics in later. Depending on the phrasing and timing of the lyrics is how I then composed the melody line. This was a process of trial and error that required many different drafts of lyrics that would fit the musical sections I had composed.
The BPM came in at 120. The song key was E minor. 4/4 Time signature. I decided not to write lyrics for the bridge, but use that section to feature a saxophone solo, as INXS’s Kirk Pengilly, was usually given a spot, somewhere in their songs, to let loose and embellish them as needed.

Taking these raw materials home with me, I have completed a demo of the song using my preferred controller keyboard, at my studio, along with synth sounds I am more comfortable in using, than the limited choice within the SAE Studios. Having this blueprint will be a fantastic way to prep the session musicians I have chosen to work on this track. I am hoping each collaborating artist will bring their own creativity to the project and use my demo as a launchpad rather than following it religiously. The only thing I will be stipulating is certain riffs, notes and chords need to be adhered to, but within this framework, I want them to bring to the table their own interpretation of what makes a song sound like INXS, using their particular instruments.

Nile Rogers – “The Hitmaker”


The general public understand that musicians, performers and bands have a unique sound. But most of them don’t know the extent to which an audio producer can manipulate and effect the final product.

One of my favourite producers, is Nile Rodgers. His work with the band Chic, in the mid to late 1970s, saw the group chart all around the world. But with the demise of disco, Nile took on the hat of producing other artists and began to carve a reputation as a chart topping, successful producer with a “Midas touch”. Rodgers, is well known for his tight and punchy drums, funky guitar riffs, slinky smooth bass lines and a knack of creating soundscapes full of energy and memorable hooks. As his reputation spread, highly successful artists, sought him out, to apply his “fairy dust” to their next album or single. He has worked with iconic acts such as Dianna Ross, David Bowie, Duran Duran, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams and too many others to mention.

Although Nile’s career spans many decades, I want to hone in on his prolific 1980’s era, specifically the mid 80’s. The three references I have chosen to exemplify this period of his sound, are

“Original sin” by INXS (1983).

“Let’s dance” by David Bowie  (1983)


“Notorious” by Duran Duran (1986)


The thing that ties these three songs together, even though they are by quite different sounding groups, are the incredibly present drums and rhythm track. Nile Rodgers considered the heavily compressed and huge sound of his drums as being the bedrock for any of his projects. The next important building block in his sound, was upfront, distinctive bass lines, which he would sometimes write for the artists along with his Chic bandmate and constant collaborator, Bernie Edwards (bass player / producer). A huge signifier of his sound, were the ever present bass lines. (Considering John Deacon from Queen, credited Chic with the bass line for “Another One Bites the Dust” and countless rap and hip-hop records sample Chic’s bass riffs, one can see how the infectious grooves, created by Nile Rodgers, start from the bass and drums) Nile not only worked on the sound of these tracks but also was involved in the musical side as well. Many of his hits were collaborations in the songwriting department, as Rogers molded the raw material and added lots more layers of songwriting and instruments to bring the projects up to his chart topping formula.

My plan to emulate Nile Rogers’ production technique through a recorded song, is to begin the bedrock of the tune, with hard hitting, huge sounding drums. The INXS drum sound of the 1980s, used flat sounding tom work, played on Rototoms and overdubbed drum fills. Nile’s next step, was a powerful bass riff that would drive the song. Using the referencing of INXS, my thought is the bass line won’t necessarily be funky but more distinctive and prominent, with lots of slap, percussive playing and bright tone, to form the root system to build the song on. As with anything Nile was involved in, he inevitably played guitar on almost all his productions, using his distinctive sound and playing style. This song will feature a bright, Fender Stratocaster / Telecaster sound, as the percussive guitar comping. Nile used his own “Hitmaker” Strat on productions, whereas Tim Farris, of INXS, was a seasoned Telecaster user. I will aim for a tone somewhere between the two. Having researched his recording techniques, direct input was his method of choice for tracking both guitar and bass. Rogers was a big user of Neve consoles in the 1980’s, so using the preamps via our own SAE Neve desk, will set me along the path of capturing the guitar and bass tones he used in the era I have chosen.
I will write an original song in the INXS flavour of the early 1980’s and then bring in session musicians I know, for all the instruments except keyboards, which I will perform myself. I will source a female backup singer from a Latin band I moonlight in. Currently I have put out feelers for a Michael Hutchence soundalike, but if that fails, I will record the lead vocals myself.

Nile Rodgers Time Sheet


Buskin, R (2005) Classic Tracks – “Chic” Le Freak

Sound on Sound Magazine. Cambridge, U.K.

Retrieved from:


Shecter, J (2018) Nile Rodgers and Bernie Edwards. Beyond the hitmaker.

Medium on line publishing. San Francisco, U.S.A.

Retrieved from:


Abbey, R (2018) Nile Rodgers at Abbey Road.

Abbey Road Studios, London, U.K.

Retrieved from:

Record a band to tape

Studer Tape Machine

The record a band to tape project, was organised for Wednesday the 13th of December, 2019. Our external studio was SoundPark in St Georges Road Fitzroy. Upon arrival, it was patently clear, that this was a very individual and bespoke recording environment. Lots of vintage posters, shabby chic furnishings and heaps of DIY room treatment using recycled timbers doors and building materials. The first scour of the studio,  showed an amazing amount of vintage microphones, keyboards, guitar amps, outboard gear and a vintage mixing desk, that had been imported from the U.S. The Studer tape machine, was the focus of our output on this particular day.

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The band we recorded, has only been together for around 6 weeks and had a very 1970’s aesthetic to them, with twin guitar leads, keyboards, bass and drums. They certainly channelled the Allman Brother’s, The Band, and Little Feat. It was obvious that they wanted this particular studio, as the surroundings and hardware definitely suited their desire to capture a vintage sound.

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Once the mics were set up on the drum kit, grand piano, small guitar practice amps,  Leslie speaker cabinet and bass amp, the work began on creating a coordinated session in the control room. Tracks for all the equipment were assigned, but we knew we could not go further than the 24 inputs allowed on the reel to reel tape machine. The signal flow path began in the recording space through the mixing console and then directly to the tape machine. It was then routed to Pro Tools and Pro Tools was used only as a headphone mixer / send and also as a final method of dumping all the tracks to take from the studio. Pro Tools was not used as a recording medium during the “all in band” performance, but later in the day we did use it for certain overdubs as the availability of the microphones and room setting may have created difficulties in the future to capture similar sounding additional tracks that didn’t clash with the originals.

Rob Greenwell took on the job of Pro Tools and console engineer. I took on the role of tape engineer and the rest of the class were used as gophers when certain microphones or instruments needed tweaking in the recording space.
Set up took around 2 hours to complete and the actual recording only began around 1pm. The bands brief, of wanting to capture songs all together as a group, meant the singer required a screen to isolate his vocals. The drums were positioned in a room off the main recording space, which was fitted with double opening doors to facilitate easy eye contact and communication between the musicians. This allowed the drums to be somewhat isolated from the rest of the instruments. The grand piano, had a ribbon mic placed over the highest strings and the lid raised to a 45-degree angle. The two guitarists used small practice amps that were close miked and the bass players speaker and the Hammond organ Leslie cabinet we’re also miked up in the room as well.

Apart from the fantastic experience of working in an “Old School” environment, I learnt from the bands response to the tracks, that the “vibe or feel” of a song was more important to them, than some “bung” notes here and there. Playing all together, certainly facilitated the collaborative environment of bouncing off each other, to achieve that illusive “feel” they were after. Being an engineer can start with all the technical knowledge and skills of routing, patching and setting up gear, but appreciating the creative aspect of “nailing a vibe” on a record, was probably the biggest thing I took away from this session.

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Ensuring professionalism in unfamiliar environments, is a key point to engineering in many different studios during your career. When working in a situation like our Soundpark session, the band needed to be our number one client and effective communication, attention to their demands, remaining focused throughout day, keeping things light hearted and unstressful but at the same time keeping the project on track and professional, is how I feel a successful recording session could be achieved. As far as technical preparation, researching the in-house equipment and a visit to the studio, before the set date, would ensure no surprises on the actual day of recording.

12  Money

Legal and business implications of a professional recording, would include having a signed promise of payment on completion of the project. A deposit that would completely cover the studio rental & your time for the session, would need to be paid prior to the recording date. My thought would be NOT to send clients any finished tracks until the final payment has been made. Having run my own signwriting business for more than 30 years, I know how important this aspect of the industry is. If your role in the album creation is producing or songwriting input, the boundaries of your involvement, will need to be sorted out long before the recording date. Putting this in writing and having all parties understand and sign a document, will create a clear and unambiguous future for all concerned. Moving into the areas of songwriting credits and maybe even playing instruments on the album, would obviously involve your role in the process to include royalties in both publishing and performance. Sorting out these arrangements in the early quoting and preparation phase is imperative, as history has shown how messy and painful, blurred delineation can be at a future date.

Masters of the Universe


Not really knowing much about mastering, except for fellow musicians saying I needed to send my finished tracks to external mastering services, has meant that this intensive has been incredibly informative and helpful. Having now completed two full days of mastering “hands on tasks”, has greatly expanded my understanding of EQ, dynamic EQ, compression and also multiband compression. It’s also been great to begin fine-tuning my ears to picking out the various frequencies that require boosting or attenuating. The spill over effect, skill wise, means that I am also greatly improving my mixes, as I know what is sought after as the end product, therefore making improved decisions further up the chain to supply better products ready for mastering.


Mastering audio – the art of listening

It’s also fascinating to consider that mastering is not just a technical, quantifiable action, but can involve creative, artistic decisions. For instance some tracks we mastered today, had a very “balls to the wall”, rock flavour to them. This meant that when I took out some of the low mids, I actually removed some of the energy residing in the bottom of the song. Unfortunately this led to a weakening of the power the original was giving.

Understanding the overall feel and direction of the song, can greatly improve the way you master the track and this is where creative decisions come into play. As an example, light, folk love songs, don’t need punching, loud bottom end. Similarly, heavy rock needs a pounding bottom end, to create a bedrock of power, to build the guitars and vocals from. Creative decisions, about how far in front of the mix vocals needs to be, or how present a distorted, gnarly guitar features, are all things that mastering engineers contemplate when working through songs. Some of these decisions can be vital to the finished song and the direction it moves in, so it’s important to understand that the power you have as a mastering engineer, is not to be taken lightly.

You have the potential to change a song’s intent and feel, therefore giving you quite an important responsibility.



Wyner, J. (2013) Isotope Inc. Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Mastering audio and the art of listening.
Marshall, K. (2019) Audio mastering and when to be creative.
Hiwatt. Los Angeles, U.S.A.
Sydell, R. (2015)
Why master your music? Everything I wish I’d known.
Landr. Montreal, Canada.


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What is the dark art of mastering and why is it necessary?

According to the Los Angeles music production school, Icon Collective, The mastering stage involves a series of subtle audio processes including equalization, compression, saturation, stereo enhancement, and limiting. The purpose of mastering is to balance the stereo mix, make all the elements sound cohesive, and to reach commercial loudness.” This definition, sums up the final stage of the recording process really well. After recording, processing and mixing an audio track, the next most important stage is mastering. This is the final stage that allows your work to now enter the public sphere.

At times, even seasoned musicians / performers, have asked, “Why do we need mastering?”

Here is a check list of various enhancements, mastering can bring to the finished project:

  • Edit frequencies, by removing or attenuating, to improve the global level of the song.
  • Ensure an even distribution of frequencies
  • Take out undesirable noises, like pops and clicks throughout the track.
  • Finalise perceived loudness to match industry standards.
  • Create a final running order for the final album or EP.
  • Ensure there is space at the start and finish of each song.
  • Applying stereo enhancement adds magnitude and an even stereo field. Widening your mix will help it sound bigger.
  • Producers and engineers benefit from a second set of ears to identify problems missed during the final mix.
  • Songs released as an album or EP need to have consistent levels and cohesion to them. Mastering ensures this occurs.
  • Ensure transient spikes and dynamics are controlled.
  • Assigning an even spread of frequencies to ensure a tonal equity.
  • Apply ISRC information and metadata for electronic retrieval.
  • To ensure consistency across multiple platforms, appropriate sample rate and bit depth need to be applied.
  • On an album or EP release, gaps between songs need to be controlled via uniform fades.
  • Record labels require mastering as a prerequisite for their releases.
  • Create track markers for CD releases.



With so many mastering plugins now available for bedroom producers, the misconception that artists can now simply push their mix through a software bundle and the job will be completed, needs to be addressed. Critical listening is a skill that only improves over time and because professional mastering engineers concentrate their talents on this one aspect of the industry, it stands to reason that they are the obvious and most qualified to take on this task. Also, the aforementioned “second set of ears” scenario comes into play.

Having never really understood the importance of mastering, researching this article has been a huge eye opener. The various YouTube tutorials I’ve watched to prepare this blog, have been incredibly informative and given me a respect for the leaders in this craft.


Weiss, M. (2016) What is mastering?

Pro Audio Files. Los Angeles, U.S.A.

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Wynder, J. (2019) Are you listening? Audio mastering basics.

Izotope Inc. Massachusetts, U.S.A.

Retrieved from:


Rory, P. (2018) What is mastering and why it’s important.

Icon Collective. Los Angeles, U.S.A.

Retrieved from:


Eley, D. (2018) What is audio mastering?

TGM Audio. Mancehster, U.K.

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