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At Home With The Binghams

As I type this opening paragraph, I’m sat on the train on my way to Cambridgeshire where I shall commence work with Steve Bingham. Steve is a violinist, conductor, orchestral contractor and recording artist. With such a compliment of roles, I’m confident that I will learn a great deal. Steve has also confessed to being slightly out of his depth when is comes to synthesis and thus hopes to make use of my knowledge in the subject.

Steve picked me up at the station and on the way to his place of work, we discussed our plan of action for the next couple of days. The basic plan was to have me look into synthesizer and sampler programming for an orchestral piece by John Adams and looking into electronic ideas for his live sets. The shadowing part of the placement would come as he is mixing his album. I’ve only recorded and mixed live strings once before, with less than satisfactory results, so listening to Steve’s work and observing him in the process will prove invaluable.

The first task I was asked to do was to listen to John Adams’ Fearful Symmetries and identify a means of performing the electronic segments with todays technology. This proved to be incredibly simple due to advances in music tech. When the piece was written in 1988 two hardware samplers were required to perform the parts. Now, however, these could easily be played using a laptop and a cheap MIDI controller or sequencer. After explaining this and demonstrating a few basic sounds, this task was complete.

Next Steve introduced me to Logic X. My preferred DAW is Logic Pro 9 and I’ve not yet deemed it necessary to upgrade, so there was a slight learning curve when working on some of Steves tracks. After a brief tour of this DAW, I was shown a track featuring live strings, percussion and vocals from Steves upcoming album. After listening to the mix, I had a few small suggestions to add some percussion to the track, to my surprise Steve set up some microphones and asked me to play percussion on his track. Once recorded, we began re-mixing the track adding depth and space. This part of the process proved to be very interesting as we have different approaches to applying and utilising reverb. After a lengthy discussion and comparison of techniques, we eventually used both. Once the instrumental track was complete Steve called in his daughter Jenny to add vocals to the track. During this period, I was mainly an observer, watching as Steve organised his tracks and dropped in elements of other takes. Although I did come in useful during rehearsal periods, whilst reading the sheet music for the arrangements harmony sections.

This 13 hour work day was tiring, but very informative and a great deal of fun. After being offered a bed for the night, I retired eagerly awaiting the next day.

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