Live sound masterclasses at Backstage Academy

Avid's James Baker and FOH sound engineer Chris Madden

26 July 2012

UK - Some of live music's leading audio professionals have been inspiring the next generation of talent at Backstage Academy, the West Yorkshire based training centre for careers in the entertainment industry.

The Prodigy's drummer Leo Crabtree, P!nk and Sade FOH Engineer Chris Madden, and audio mixing author Dave Swallow delivered a variety of masterclasses for the students on the new Foundation Degree in Live Events Production, as part of their month-long Live Sound module.

Leo Crabtree talked to the students about the importance of protecting your hearing when working at live music gigs, a topic recently brought to the spotlight by the Chris Martin and Plan B backed Loud Music charity campaign.

Veteran audio engineer Chris Madden, whose credentials include mixing audio for P!nk and Sade on their worldwide tours, spoke about his experience on tour, how he got into the industry and the importance of building relationships for the progression of your career. He also showed them his standard FOH kit - an Avid Venue system and Pro Tools recording set up - and demonstrated some basic mixing functions.

Said Madden, "This industry is growing, it's doing really well and it needs good people. The quality of shows generally and the expectation of the audience is so high that production managers are crying out for good people that are conscientious.

"Education is obviously a key thing, there is no harm at all in being qualified and having certificates to prove that, but the key thing to me is that you need to be someone that the production manager or the lighting chief wants to have around them all day long.

"Today I met 18 students who all seem very enthusiastic and positive, not necessarily certain about what direction they want to go in, but that seems to be the concept of the course; they are dipping their toes into and getting something out of lots of different departments. They strike me as a bunch of people who are really interested in what they are doing, they are not just here to pass the time by any means.

"I think the fact that they are going to brush up against touring productions that come here to rehearse or to prepare - they are going to be rubbing up against these people whether they like it or not - and if they do it in the right way, some of it is going to rub off and maybe they will find an opportunity, I can't imagine that there aren't going to be opportunities here."

Award-winning live sound engineer, author and Lighting & Sound International columnist Dave Swallow also dropped in on the students for a day to take them back to the basics of sound, teaching them how to listen and connect with music emotionally.

Said Swallow, "I've been talking to the guys here today and yesterday about how to understand your role as a sound engineer from a very creative point of view and how to understand your own connection with the music. I've talked about how by listening to the frequency spectrum and by adding and losing certain frequencies you can create positive and negative connotations...hopefully giving them all the ideas and the techniques that they can take away and understand how they mix the sound in a much more emotionally connected way.

"I think all of them engaged in some way or another with what I was talking about and that's purely because it wasn't technical, it was all about how you feel. I think they can all take something away from the last couple of days that will really help them understand sound in a very different, non-technical way."

Said head of courses Robin Watkinson, "Our aim with the course is to bring in people from a variety of specialisms who have a wealth of experience in the live events industry in order to ensure that the content we are providing for the students reflects current trends, technology and practices.

"Our proximity to the LS-Live studio means we are very privileged to have great relationships with many cutting-edge production professionals who are internationally renowned for their skills in the likes of sound, video, lighting, staging, rigging, set design and event management.

"As people come through the facilities and realise what opportunities there are for getting involved with training, we hope that we can develop the content further in future years."

Backstage Academy is seeking entertainment industry professionals to deliver masterclasses and training at the Academy for the second Foundation Degree in Live Events Production, which begins in November this year and is expected to more than double in admissions this year. Please email enquiries@backstage-academy.co.uk for further info.

The Live Sound module is also available as a standalone Career Course next March-April. Designed to give a basic overview of all aspects of live sound, the course will teach students the theory and art of sound, basic sound system principles, the components of a modern sound system, how to use industry standard Pro Tools audio recording software and how bands and their records labels are maximising income through live performance.

(Jim Evans)

 

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